Is coffee good for you?

Slurp some coffee, you soon know you’re alive.

It’s one of those glorious substances that makes an instant visceral impression – you jolt from a slump, you conjure an idea, you untie a creative knot, you get up and go, you va va voom. What’s more, your mouth floods with aromatic flavours. So at breakfast coffee makes pastries taste (even) better and after a meal it goes beautifully with digestifs. It even makes it easier to exercise the next day, to burn off those pastries and brandies.

But (maybe apart from the pastry + breakfast thing) much of this could be said of cigars and tequila. What’s really fabulous about coffee is that, unlike those two, it won’t make you smell, it won’t give you a hangover and it won’t make you a social pariah. 

In fact – stop press – it won’t do you any physical harm at all. More than that – while we’re well aware that coffee feels good (in oh so many ways), it seems it actually does you good, too.

How can this be? Some people point to coffee’s heart-racing, blood-pumping effects as evidence that, surely, there must be something amiss here, some health penance to be paid for this delicious sin, something suspect going on. 

Not so, according to research released in March 2022 that suggests drinking a few cups of coffee a day will not only not do any harm to your ticker – it could actually improve its health.

The research’s senior author is Peter M. Kistler, head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia. According to the good professor, medical advice to steer clear of caffeine if you have any sort of heart complaint is based on the assumption that a coffee-induced increase in heart rate is a bad thing. We didn’t think doctors made assumptions. Turns out they do, and, as all assumptions risk being, this one’s wrong.

For Professor Kistler’s study, some 380,000 people without known heart disease were assessed over a period of ten years, with the finding that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day translated to “a 10%-15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem, or dying for any reason”. Having fewer or more than two or three cups saw a drop in the beneficial effects.

In a second study of some 34,000 people with known heart disease, “two to three cups a day was associated with lower odds of dying compared with having no coffee” and “any amount of coffee was not associated with a higher risk of heart rhythm problems.”

It is pretty hard to process, this conclusion. It’s not usually a good sign when core machinery – engines, motherboards, computers, etc – starts going into overdrive. Sparks and smoke soon follow. But it appears that our hearts are different – and in any case it’s apparently not the heart-rate increase per se that brings benefits.

Kistler and his team are at pains to remind us that there’s a whole lot more going on with coffee than just caffeine, and they believe it may be some of the other hundred or so active compounds in coffee that benefit our hearts. Kistler points to the possibility that the compounds “reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity […] inhibit the gut’s absorption of fat and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms.”

He also mentions coffee compounds’ capacity to “boost metabolism” – and that brings us to yet more good things coffee can do for our health.


The power of polyphenols

Coffee is a natural product, minimally processed. It is one of the plants that contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant compound. With its get-up-and-go qualities, coffee helps you pack more into life – but it might also go one step further by actually lengthening that life. Those polyphenols again. Studies in Japan have even suggested that coffee is a boon to what the researchers call “all-cause mortality”.


Metabolism and weight loss

If keeping trim is one of your reasons for going jogging, bear in mind that coffee might – might! – tip your “energy balance” towards weight loss. There are suggestions, too, that coffee can boost your metabolism.


Long-term brain health

Another of coffee’s qualities – sharpness of mind – may also, surprisingly, extend beyond the immediate here and now. The results are far from conclusive, but there have been indications that coffee could help stave off developing Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. 


So there we have it. That something so delicious could actually bring you health benefits might seem like a dream, but we’ll take it. You can browse our award-winning range of single-origin and blended remedies in our online pharmacy over here.

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