Caffeine Chronicles #7: Health benefits of coffee

Like it or not, America’s coffee culture is here to stay. Some naysayers blame coffee and its caffeinated cousins like tea for many of our generation’s woes, such as anxiety and obesity, but it’s important to look at both sides of the cup, if you will.

True, anything in excess will be detrimental to your body. Even drinking too much water has the potential to kill you. If you’re slamming 15 cans of Red Bull daily, please put down this article and re-evaluate your life. (Seriously, how did you even sit still long enough to read this newspaper?) But a cup or two of tea everyday shouldn’t hurt anyone—just ask the British. Here are some more ways coffee and tea can enhance your life.

Are you one of those people who must stop by Starbucks every morning to pick up a latte before class? Turns out, you’re on to something. According to a study done in the journal “Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental” from June 2010, caffeine had a positive effect on reaction time in test subjects.

Want even more of a boost? In that same experiment, it was found that caffeine combined with glucose, a sugar found in plants, benefits attention, learning and verbal memorization. So go ahead, have that coffee along with your apple at breakfast. You’ll be all the smarter for it.

While some blast coffee for exacerbating anxiety in some people, caffeine may actually have a positive influence on the mind and mood, particularly for all the ladies out there. A report from the “Archives of Internal Medicine” published in 2011, stated caffeinated coffee reduces the risk of depression in women.

And so all you gents don’t feel left out, there’s something in it for you as well. In 2009, a study found that men who drink coffee have a lower risk of developing fatal prostate cancer.

Some of these benefits could possibly be attributed to coffee’s antioxidants, substances that are believed to slow the development of cancer cells by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals. Believe it or not, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans, according to a study done in 2005 by a chemistry
professor from the University of Scranton.

Tea drinkers, you’re also getting in on a number of pretty awesome health benefits. Since the dawn of civilization, people have been fascinated by the ways in which tea can promote wellness. Shennong, the great Chinese emperor, wrote about the positive effects of infusions of camellia sinensis—or what you probably know as the tea plant—more than four millennia ago.

Black tea is the most caffeinated of all the teas derived from camellia sinensis and is what goes into drinks such as chai tea. Studies have shown that black tea may reduce the risk of stroke.
Also, according to livestrong.com, black tea encourages the relaxation of blood vessels, contributing to lower blood pressure and a higher rate of survival for heart attack patients.

Not to be outdone, the famously healthy green tea is also rich in antioxidants and is considered the best food source of catechins, a particular antioxidant described by “Harvard Women’s Health Watch” as having many powerful disease-fighting properties. It can also have a positive effect on heart health, lowering what is known as “bad” cholesterol and promoting “good” cholesterol.

Everything has pros and cons, especially in the realm of healthy eating. While coffee and tea are admittedly not cure-alls for every woe you may encounter, you can sit back (or maybe run a lap or two—you did just drink a caffeinated beverage) and know that you’re reaping some pretty sweet benefits.


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