So, is coffee good or bad for me?

I've been a coffee drinker for, like, it seems forever. In my Facebook feed, there are plenty of articles about how good coffee is for your health. Then again, there are conflicting articles that say coffee is not that great for your health. I'm seriously confused. Is it good or bad?

Well, there is no denying that drinking coffee perks you up.

There are more positive than negative research articles that say coffee is good for you, rather than bad.

These are the best ways that coffee can improve your health, according to science:

  • You can live longer - coffee drinkers have been found to be less likely to die from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. This is especially if you are a woman.

Coffee keeps your blood vessels flexible so that they can expand to increase your blood flow.

Coffee also decreases the development of arteriosclerotic plaques in your blood vessels, which are the mainstay of why you get heart attacks and strokes.

There are chemicals within coffee that apparently decrease inflammation.

  • You can process or metabolise sugar better - you are less likely to get type 2 diabetes in your middle age by about 11 per cent.
  • You are less likely to develop heart failure.
  • You are less likely to get Parkinson's disease - and even if you do develop the disease, coffee can help you control your movements better.
  • You can protect your liver better - coffee apparently normalises your liver enzymes because it has a high content of antioxidants.
  • Your DNA strands will break less - your DNA, contained within your cells, is the genetic code you inherited from your parents that makes you who you are.

Dark roasted coffee can help preserve the DNA strands longer and reduce breakage. This means you are less likely to get cancer.

  • Your risk of colon cancer decreases by 26 per cent.
  • You are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease - two cups of coffee a day can help protect against dementia in women aged 65 and older.
Coffee decreases the development of arteriosclerotic plaques in your blood vessels, which are the mainstay of why you get heart attacks and strokes. Photo: AFP

Wow! I'm glad I'm a coffee drinker. But why do some articles say that it is bad?

Several decades ago, several studies were done comparing coffee drinkers to non-drinkers. Those studies showed that coffee drinkers had more heart problems and died younger.

Unfortunately, in those days, studies were not as well designed or well controlled as today.

Those older studies did not account for other factors in those study subjects that could lead to poor health, such as sedentary habits, drinking alcohol and smoking.

Today, studies on coffee take into consideration all those other factors and isolate the controls better. Hence, coffee has now been shown to have better health benefits.

Remember, in those days, we were also told to eat as much carbohydrates in the dietary pyramid as we wished. Today, we are told that too much carbs is bad for us.

We were also told that butter and eggs were bad. But today, they tell us that butter and eggs are good.

Is it a wonder that we are so confused?

Dark roasted coffee can help preserve DNA strands longer and reduce breakage.Photo: AFP

But there are downsides to coffee, right?

Of course. Caffeine boosts your mood, metabolism and physical performance.

But you need to consume it in the right amounts. Too much of a good thing leads to dangerous side effects, just like any drug or stimulant.

The side effects of too much coffee are:

  • Anxiety and increased stress - due to more adrenaline being triggered.
  • Insomnia and decreased sleeping time - especially when coffee consumed later in the day.

Coffee can remain in your system from 1.5 hours up to nine hours, depending on how quickly your body metabolises it.

  • Diarrhoea or loose stools.
  • It can worsen gastric reflux.
  • Muscle breakdown.
  • Addiction - Can you live without coffee? If not, you are probably addicted to it.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Fatigue.
  • Frequent urination.

And apparently, all this depends on how much coffee you take.

How much coffee should I take then?

It depends on your genetic make-up and how much tolerance you develop towards coffee.

Some people can drink just one cup of coffee and be inundated with side effects. Some people don't seem to be affected at all.

But the bottom line is mild to moderate coffee consumption has a lot of health benefits, but heavy/too much coffee can lead to health deterioration.

Drinking up to four 8-ounce (225g) cups of coffee a day is safe. An 8-ounce cup is around the normal-sized mug that you are accustomed to (not the big ones, mind you!).

More than that, and the side effects may appear.