Coffee has been taking the world by storm ever since the Ottoman Turks introduced it to Constantinople. The word alone is enough to evoke rich aromas that help so many of us to function first thing in the morning, but back in the 15th Century it proved so popular a Turkish law was passed allowing a woman to divorce her husband if he failed to provide her with her daily quota.
By the 17th Century coffee shops were appearing in the global trading hubs and capitals of Europe, facilitating the exchange of political ideas, acting as exchanges for the buying and selling of shares and insurance, while in New York 1668 saw coffee replace beer as the City’s favourite breakfast drink. Lloyds of London and the UK Stock Exchange both started in coffee shops – so today’s internet start-ups using Starbucks as informal offices are following a well-trodden path.
Turns out coffee is good for us
Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, while a study from Harvard has found consumers of 3-5 cups of coffee a day had a 15% lower risk of dying prematurely than non-coffee drinkers. Potential health benefits of drinking coffee have been linked to the protection against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer.
- A study from Harvard School of Public Health has found that increased coffee consumption may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, while according to researchers at UCLA, coffee consumption increases plasma levels of SHBG – a protein sex-hormone binding globulin – which controls testosterone and oestrogen, both of which play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
- According to the Journal Neurology, coffee consumption could aid controlling movement in people with Parkinson’s.
In another great coffee nation, Italian researchers have found drinking coffee could lower the risk of liver cancer by 40%.
What’s coffee’s secret?
Nobody knows for sure why coffee is good for health, but it appears the compound cholorgenic acid it contains could be beneficial in modulating sugar metabolism as well as controlling blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers such as colon, liver and breast. Meanwhile researchers at University of California-San Francisco concluded that regular caffeine consumption is not linked to extra heartbeats, a common occurrence that can lead to heart problems and stroke. However, more research is need on this particular subject.
You can have too much of a good thing
It’s not all good news – moderation is also important. Drinking too much coffee has been associated with anxiety and symptoms of depression, while according to the British Journal of Pharmacology, women who regularly drink coffee when wishing to become pregnant may reduce their chances. According to WHO coffee is no longer classifiable as a carcinogen and has no effects on cancers including pancreas and prostate, while actually reducing the risk of liver and uterine cancers. However, one note of caution: do not drink coffee when it’s very hot as this might be carcinogenic.
Tip: When having your cup of morning-coffee keep it sugar free, black or with just a splash of milk. In the UK 85% of consumers add milk – unfortunately 57% also add sugar, so offsetting the health benefits. Coffee flavoured milk, cream, sugar plus flavoured syrups don’t make the health grade.
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