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Weighing the Benefits of Café, Pound by Pound


For more than 100 million Americans, coffee is the eye-opener of the day. Consumed on a daily basis, this simple bean is the first-choice beverage for many cultures however, Latinos seem to favor coffee more than any other. More than just a cultural pastime, the love of coffee has been passed down from generation to generation.

According to National Coffee Association, 76% of adult Hispanic Americans drink coffee almost daily which puts us 13% ahead of the national average. Aside from a regular coffee consumption, Hispanic Americans admit to favoring gourmet coffee beverages as more than 44% indulge versus 30% of Caucasians and 25% of African Americans. The preferred choice of gourmet coffee among Hispanic Americans: espresso-based. But this is one area where we might not want to take the lead.

Are there health benefits to coffee consumption?

For those who enjoy freshly brewed coffee on a regular basis, you will be happy to know there are health benefits to drinking coffee however, there are also health risks, especially for those who consume more than 4 cups per day. But the Mayo Clinic says that those health benefits of coffee consumption may well outweigh the risks. Preventative Mayo Clinic medicine specialist Donald Hensrud, M.D. notes that there are no recent study connections between drinking coffee and an increased risk of heart disease or cancer.

Instead, multiple research supports that drinking coffee may help protect against health issues such as liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes. He does however, warn that everything should be consumed in moderation and those who practice heavy caffeine use –4 to 7 cups per day–may experience problems with anxiety, sleeplessness, and irritability.

Dr. Hensrud also notes that drinking unfiltered coffee in high consumption has been linked with elevated levels of cholesterol. People who have a specific genetic mutation to the breakdown of caffeine can be at an increased risk for heart disease. The bottom line: your health risk is related to how quickly your body metabolizes coffee. So is it good or bad for you? We’ll let you—and your doctors—decide. In the meantime, below is a breakdown of the pros and cons of drinking a cup of café that everyone should know.

Pro: Helps to Side-Step Diabetes

Harvard researchers found that coffee drinkers who consumed black coffee for two or more years had a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Regular coffee consumption showed impaired glucose tolerance and decreased insulin sensitivity. This is good news for Hispanic American adults who are 1.7 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

Con: Can Cause Excessive Weight Gain When Enhanced

Even though coffee can have positive effects on reducing type 2 diabetes, people who drink coffee with a lot of milk or sugar, or those who consume sugary gourmet coffees, can increase their risk of developing diabetes. Here are some facts to digest: According to the web site—part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion— a 6-ounce cup of black coffee contains only 7 calories. When you add half & half, the calories jump to 46. Pour in some liquid nondairy creamer, tack on another 48 calories. A teaspoon of sugar? That’s another 23 calories. And coffee lovers who indulge in gourmet flavors such as Mocha Frappachinos?  Well they will be ingesting approximately 500 calories per coffee cup. This adds up to about 25% of an average person’s total calorie intake for a day and can lead to weight gain.  So it’s not the coffee, per se, but how you drink it that matters most.

Pro: Can Help to Shed the Pounds 

Drinking green coffee extract, which is coffee made from unroasted coffee beans, may prove effective in helping to shed those extra pounds. Researchers conducted a study on 16 overweight adults. The results were positive in that 37.5% of participants went from a pre-obese weight to a normal weight range over the 22-week study. Green coffee extract may be an effective and inexpensive means for preventing obesity.

Con: Can Hinder Calcium Absorption 

James D. Lane, PhD, professor of medical psychology and behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. notes that coffee is a  mild diuretic— that is, it makes you urinate more than you would without it. Decaffeinated coffee, on the other hand has about the same effect on urine production as water.  But the issue is this: The caffeine found in coffee can cause calcium to be excreted every time you urinate. According to a report done by the Oregon State Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health, for every 150 mg of caffeine ingested, about the amount in one cup of coffee, 5 mg of calcium is lost—even hours after the consumption of caffeine. This is especially true in women.

Pro: Gives Brain An Energetic Boost 

Many people drink coffee as a form of stimulation and for good reason. The US National Library of Medicine says drinking coffeee every day can help mid-aged people with mental sharpness. This occurs due to the caffeine interaction that increases the growth factor of GCSF, which helps create neurons in the brain. Study participants showed a 65% risk decrease in developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life with regular coffee consumption.  

Con: Can  Be Addictive & Trigger Migraines

Doctors also remind consumers that caffeine, the main ingredient in coffee, is a mildly addictive stimulant and may not be the best beverage choice for some.  If you suffer from migraines, the over consumption of caffeine  can be a major contributing factor to your pain, says the Mayo Clinic.  So drink with caution.

Pro: Helps Men to Live Longer

It’s possible to reduce men’s death risk by up to 12% from drinking coffee. More than 400,000 men were studied over 13 years. Those who drank 1 cup of coffee a day decreased their death risk by 6% while those who consumed 3 to 6 or more cups a day saw a reduction of 10%. Many Latin Americans take their health seriously but not many know the heart-healthy benefits that come with drinking coffee. A study of more than 76,000 men showed that drinking no more than 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day reduced their chances of dying from a cardiovascular disease by 38%. 

Con: May Cause Cardiovascular Issues

“Caffeine can raise blood pressure of those with high blood pressure, as well as blood levels of the fight-or-flight chemical epinephrine (also called adrenaline),” Dr. Lane says. Experts have said it’s important to understand that coffee does have some cardiovascular effects that include increased blood pressure and an increased heart rate.

The bottom line? While there are proven heart-healthy benefits to drinking coffee, if you’re suffering from pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, migraines, diabetes, those conditions should be taken into consideration before consuming a cup of joe.  And anyone wishing to improve their health should focus on total lifestyle changes that include eating more whole grains, lean protein, and green, leafy vegetables, and participating in regular exercise.

Provided by our friends at VidaVibrante

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  • July 15, 2013

    I drink a lot of coffee everyday. After reading this article, I think it’s time to cut back. Many pros to being a coffee drinker but many cons as well. Moderation!

    Regi Santos
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