Rethinking Our Love Affair With COFFEE

When it comes to coffee, we really do love it, its got so much going for it – it socially connects us to others, its easily accessible, its got that “nurturing” quality about it, it can give us a hit of energy and these qualities have us coming back for more, again and again! Few could argue that coffee drinking has become part of our culture, where in the past, it demanded a bitter acquired taste, the addition of milk, sugars and many food forms its now found in make it far more appealing to a wider audience. Coffee effects our central nervous system, and anyone who suffers anxiety or insomnia, will find that removal of caffeine (found in coffee) may significantly improve symptoms. These days kids and adolescents are at risk now that coffee has found its way into foods. Whilst there are some benefits to coffee drinking (many not related to the caffeine itself), there is a sinister side to coffee drinking that is not so apparent!

Are You A SLOW or FAST Metabolizer?

Caffeine is metabolised by the P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) enzyme, some people have an issue with this enzyme (which can be tested), this reduces their ability to metabolise caffeine, this leads to an increased risk of heart attacks and the risk increases as consumption increases! It would be worth testing this gene for anyone who already has other cardiovascular risks or a strong family history of heart issues.  Individuals with the gene variant have a reduced ability to metabolise caffeine, and are “slow” metabolizers, as opposed “fast” metabolizers, its the “slow” metabolizers who are at risk.

Understanding CAFFEINE

Coffee is a major source of caffeine, and whilst it has been consumed for thousands of years, more caffeine is being ingested today than ever previously recorded, so we need to be aware of its effects, be that good or bad! Caffeine, stimulates the central nervous system and activates the threat response (fight or flight), its effects are well documented and if the effects of caffeine had been discovered today, it would be classed as a “smart” drug!   Caffeine is also found in tea, cocoa, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks, kola nut, nutritional supplements, sports supplements, candy bars and over the counter medications. Caffeine increases wakefulness and inhibits sleep onset, and therefore is commonly used to improve alertness.

The Good

Coffee itself is made up of compounds which have antioxidant activity, anticarcinogenic activity, antimutagenic activity. Some of the chemoprotective effects are mainly due to its polyphenols and the other constituents of coffee, rather than caffeine.

The Bad

Caffeine affects adenosine receptors and its withdrawal is associated with muscle fatigue. It interferes with oral contraceptives and postmenopausal hormones. Coffee negatively effects the bones, the reproductive system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, homocysteine levels, sleep and cholesterol levels. A harmful association has been found with those who are sensitive to stimulants. Whilst people with anxiety disorders have an increased risk to caffeine sensitivity, some individuals can have what is known as “caffeine induced anxiety disorder”, children who cant sleep should be checked for hidden caffeine coming into their diet, such as in the foods above. Several psychiatric syndromes include; caffeine intoxication, caffeine withdrawal, caffeine dependence and caffeine induced sleep disorders. Caffeine negatively effects glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in those with type II diabetes. In pregnancy caffeine passes the placental barrier and effects all of the foetus tissues including the central nervous system and the likelihood of spontaneous abortion increases.

Whose At Risk?

Besides our “slow” metabolizers, those with a higher risk for caffeine related issues include ; pregnant women, children, adolescents and the elderly. Those who suffer from hypertension, diabetes, cardiac problems, urinary incontinence, insomnia and anxiety are more vulnerable to the negative effects of coffee.

 Wrapping It UP

So those of you who are fast metabolisers of coffee can use coffee and enjoy the benefits, but those of us who are slow metabolisers, may find that even 1 cup per day could be putting our health at risk. So coffee is fine for some and not for others, for those who have chronic health conditions and want to drink coffee, it may be worth finding out if you are a fast or slow metaboliser. If you get jittery, wired or heart palpitations, if you suffer anxiety, mood swings or insomnia, if you want to conceive or are pregnant, you may want to rethink your caffeine habits. If you are dependant on coffee to wake up or stay awake you may want to relook at why that is, whilst many people say they need caffeine to get the day started, this is a major concern, when it is consistent and suggestive of underlying health issues which should be investigated.

 

REFERENCES

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