The Great Coffee Debate

January 23, 2017 

The debate about how coffee affects our health continues, but it does seem to be getting more clear. Some coffee is good for us, but too much can cause problems. The trouble has been defining those amounts.


Coffee has numerous benefits, from reducing heart attacks to improving concentration at work. Many experts believe that the benefits come not from the caffeine but from the coffee bean itself. However, when randomized trials looked at the health benefits of decaffeinated coffee they were far less dramatic than the caffeinated version.


Probably the largest benefit of coffee comes from its ability to help our bodies use the fuel from carbohydrates as we eat them. It does this by increasing the ability of insulin to shuttle sugars from the blood into tissues of the body to be used for energy.


Other benefits, many of which stem from this improved insulin response, include the following:

  • Reduces the risk of Type II Diabetes
  • May reduce the risk for dementia
  • Lowers incidence of heart attack and stroke
  • Reduces the risk for certain types of cancer
  • Provides antioxidants
  • Contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium


On the flip side, drinking too much coffee with caffeine can cause overstimulation of our adrenal system, which is responsible for keeping us awake and alert. When the system is consistently over stimulated, cortisol is released in the blood and heart rate and blood pressure increase. Elevated cortisol that is being circulated throughout the blood increases blood sugar which is a risk factor for heart attack and artery pathology.


The health risks of coffee include:

  • Increases activity of adrenal glands and the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increases anxiety
  • May be harmful during pregnancy
  • May cause insomnia in some individuals


After reviewing reports from doctors and research studies, it seems that the best way to reap the health benefits of coffee, while also enjoying its ability to improve our performance, is to find a balance.