Coffee is one of those things that you either love or hate. I personally have never liked the taste of coffee. For me, I’d have to add so much sweetener to make it even semi-palatable, then it becomes too sweet and I don’t like sweet things either. I also don’t like the way it makes me feel. It leads to nervous jitters and insomnia. So… I don’t drink coffee.
But a lot of people love it and have no issues with it. Some people actually like the taste of it and can drink it black; for others it’s just a reason to drink lots of sugar and cream. It also may have no effect on how it makes them feel.
But what’s super confusing is that one day you see all the crazy headlines saying coffee is great, and the next day’s headlines tell you to avoid it! So what’s the story, is coffee good or bad for you?
There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons that drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine, but it still contains some.
Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee (this is how I react). The other half are “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!
The Effects of Coffee (And Caffeine) on the Mind and Body
NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who consume coffee daily.
Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):
- Stimulates the brain
- Boosts metabolism
- Boosts energy and exercise performance
- Increases your stress hormone cortisol
So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not. You’ll want to monitor your hormones and make sure you’re drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages to reduce the risk of dehydration.
Coffee and Health Risks
There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:
- Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
- Increased sleep disruption
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of certain liver diseases
- Lower risk of death (“all-cause mortality”)
- Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).
NOTE: What’s super important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. Or that not drinking coffee will automatically put you at much higher risk for certain diseases. Eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.
So…Is Coffee Good or Bad For You? Should You Drink It or Not?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
- People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
- People who often feel anxious
- People who have trouble sleeping
- People who are pregnant
- Children and teens
If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:
- Give you the jitters?
- Increase anxious feelings?
- Affect your sleep?
- Give you heart palpitations?
- Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
- Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see if you notice a difference.
What about you? Do you drink coffee or not? Leave a note in the Comments below!