Guilty Pleasure or Natural Superfood?
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed food products on earth—but quite possibly the most misunderstood. From its origins in Ethiopia, to this very day, coffee has been surrounded by controversy, confusion and misinformation. What is it about this mysterious beverage, with its unique properties, that has made it the center of so much contention for hundreds of years?
Coffee Lore and Misinformation
From dancing goats and Whirling Dervishes to pirate attacks and the Boston Tea Party, most people who love coffee are as captivated by its tales as much as its aromas and flavors. Unfortunately, there is a gloomy side to the lore, where those who oppose coffee often use faulty science and unsubstantiated claims to insist coffee has a causal effect on many ills.
In the 1950’s, research studies linked coffee to dozens of diseases and disorders. However, subsequent studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic and others, showed significant flaws in the research. The studies neglected to consider factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and lack of physical activity of participants. When the New England Journal of Medicine controlled the original data for these negative behaviors, the findings essentially reversed.
But, the damage to coffee’s reputation had already been done. From the 1950s forward, the general public would eye coffee suspiciously, believing that science had declared it unhealthy.
Yet coffee prevailed, since most people enjoyed it so much, and they refused to give it up.
So, coffee became our guilty pleasure.
But what is the REAL TRUTH about coffee? Is it healthy, or unhealthy?
Well, the answer may surprise you…
Our scientific knowledge surrounding coffee and health has increased dramatically over the last 5 years and the verdict is finally in…
Science has determined that coffee is good for you
Very good for you, in fact. Research has shown that 3-5 cups of coffee per day has an astonishing array of health benefits.
The health benefits of coffee have been extensively researched and generally agreed upon.
Over 19,000 studies have been conducted on coffee and health, yet the vast majority of these findings have yet to reach the general public.
New studies are constantly being added to the already large body of scientific evidence, but taken overall, current research indicates that 3-5 cups of coffee per day will have an astonishingly wide range of diverse health benefits.
The most astounding research on coffee is the research surrounding coffee and disease prevention and in some cases, even the reversal of symptoms.
Up to 30% reduced risk of Parkinson’s (Hernan et al 2002)
24-40% decreased risk for type II diabetes (Ranheim & Halvorsen 2005)
50% decrease in breast cancer (when paired with Tomoxifen)
30% decreased risk of congestive heart failure (Mostofsky et al, 2012)
22-25% decreased risk of stroke (Larsson & Orsini, 2011)
15% decreased risk of prostate cancer (Zhong et al 2014)
65% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s (Eskelinen et al 2009)
40% decreased risk of liver cancer (Bohn et al 2014)
Coffee is in a class by itself when it comes to health and wellness properties.
Several well conducted studies show that coffee drinkers live longer overall and have a lower risk of premature death from any cause. In two very large studies, drinking coffee was associated with a 20% lower risk of death in men and a 26% lower risk of death in women, over a period of 18-24 years1.
Coffee helps many lose weight, boosting metabolic rates by 3 -11%. Athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise than those who didn’t.
Coffee dramatically enhances performance in high intensity exercise, 11-12%, on average. Cyclists completed 15% to 23% more work during the caffeine trial than the other two trials.
Extensive research shows that coffee improves various aspects of brain function, including memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, reaction times and overall cognitive function.
Coffee decreases risk of depression (Koenen 2011)
Coffee is possibly the richest source of antioxidants in the western diet (and PURITY is the richest source of antioxidants out of all coffees).
So, what is the TRUTH about coffee?
Drinking coffee is one of the healthiest things you can do to protect yourself against major diseases, increase physical performance, enhance brain function and contribute to longevity. With such astounding health benefits, coffee could be considered a natural super food.
The Adverse Effects of Mass-Produced Coffee
Despite the wide range of general health benefits, poor production practices can compromise the health attributes of coffee at nearly every step in the process. Many adverse effects and health risks have to do with toxins, which do not appear in the natural green coffee bean itself, but in the growing, processing, storage and shipping of coffee. These toxins include: Ochratoxin A, Acrylamide and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), which appear to result from unchecked production and roasting practices. Other adverse effects have to do with caffeine and particular acids found in coffee.
Understanding the Possible Risks Associated with Coffee.
In this short video, founders Andrew Salisbury and Jon Butcher discuss some of the adverse side-effects which can be experienced from drinking coffee, as well as some of the toxins and contaminants which can be found in the more mass-produced, conventional coffees.
Toxins that Can Be Found in Coffee
Ochratoxin A is a natural poison that is highly toxic to the kidneys. It is produced by a few types of molds found on raw, or “green”, coffee beans, often caused by collecting beans from decomposing fruits, or by some unhealthy fermentation processes.
Acrylamide is a naturally occurring chemical, found in a wide range of cooked foods such as French fries, breads, cookies, cereals and coffee, which is known to cause cancer in animals. The coffee roasting process can create, change and destroy acrylamide, all in the same roast batch, depending on several variables.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are burned compounds that can be present in any food that is roasted. High temperature roasting processes can form undesirable PAHs.
Pesticides may be present, since coffee is known to be heavily chemically treated during cultivation. Of the coffees worldwide, 97% are treated with pesticides and other chemicals, while only 3% of the coffees available today are organic. Some farmers use low-toxicity pesticides responsibly, but many do not, and it is quite difficult to monitor. Some state that the roasting process destroys pesticides, but research suggests that the chemicals actually penetrate the green bean, and that roasting fails to eradicate most of them.
Other Adverse Effects
What Science Knows, But Most Customers Do Not
The health benefits of coffee can be greatly enhanced, and the adverse effects can be decreased– some even eliminated– through conscious sourcing, roasting and processing. On its journey from the ripe coffee cherry, to the brewed coffee in your cup, there are many ways that the health benefits of coffee will be affected. At Purity Coffee, we’re committed to studying all of them and constantly applying and testing improvements to enhance the health benefits of coffee. We are also committed to collaborating with everyone in the seed-to-cup chain of custody of the coffee…
Coffee farming is difficult enough, but also, farmers have to make tough financial choices that influence their operations, coffee quality and marketing options. At each step during the sourcing, roasting and distribution process, the decisions people make will affect cost, flavor and health benefits. Flavor has also been a predominant driver in the sourcing and roasting of coffee.
Historically, health benefits of coffee rarely (if ever) have been a driver in choosing how to produce, process, roast or brew coffee. Health benefits are simply not an issue for most consumers (including consumers who are predisposed to the diseases upon which coffee can have a positive impact). As a result, consumers have not been empowered to purchase their coffee consciously, based on the difference between healthy and unhealthy coffee.
But there IS a real difference. A heaping spoonful of low quality instant coffee, or the coffee you might buy at most fuel stations, will likely use the cheapest, lowest quality coffee beans (usually selected based on price alone). These beans will likely be conventionally produced (non-organic) and contain a higher ratio of bean defects (such as insect damage, over-fermented and oxidized) and higher levels of mold. Plus the coffee will most likely be stale. Many of the benefits of the coffee compounds will still be present, but so will toxins and chemicals that can create adverse health effects.
At Purity Coffee, health benefits drive every decision we make above all others. We study the most researched strategies for enhancing the health benefits and mitigating the adverse effects of coffee across each stage of the sourcing, production and roasting processes. We’re working continually to create best practices and share our research and results with consumers and coffee industry professionals alike. We hope that you will join the conversations.
Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., Yikyung Park, Sc.D., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., Albert R. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., and Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D. N Engl J Med 2012; 366:1891-1904, May 17, 2012, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1112010