Coffee and Caffeine: Benefits and Risks

Coffee and Caffeine: Benefits and Risks

The indispensable cup of coffee represents a typically Italian ritual, the result of a habit so deeply rooted that it has led numerous experts from the most varied disciplines to periodically pronounce themselves on the benefits and risks of the beloved drink.

There are those who study its psychological aspects, those who investigate its organoleptic characteristics and those who, like us, study its relationship with human health .

Benefits of Coffee

Among the many nutritional components of coffee , the best known and most studied is undoubtedly caffeine , as it has important properties, such as:

  • the stimulatory effect on gastric and biliary secretion (this is why it is believed that a coffee at the end of a meal facilitates digestion );
  • the tonic and stimulatory effect on cardiac and nervous function (this is why many people appreciate its energetic effect , which is useful, among other things, to not get bogged down after a hearty meal);
  • the lipolytic effect, i.e. promoting weight loss (caffeine stimulates the use of fat for energy purposes and thermogenesis , increasing the amount of calories burned by the “man machine”);
  • the anorectic effect (coffee taken in large doses decreases appetite).

In addition to caffeine, coffee contains many substances whose potential beneficial role on the body is still under study. In particular, various components with strong antioxidant , antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties have been isolated , which are however insufficient to compensate for the risk deriving from a high consumption of coffee.

Risks of coffee

The effects of caffeine on human health are dose dependent. A high consumption of coffee, which we will define in quantitative terms in the next paragraph, exposes the body to various risks:

  • when it is excessive, the stimulatory effect on gastric secretion can cause damage to the digestive system – due to the high acidity of the juices poured into the stomach – (this is why coffee is contraindicated if you suffer from ulcers , gastritis or gastroesophageal reflux );
  • the tonic and stimulatory effect on cardiac and nervous function can prove harmful to people suffering from insomnia , hot flashes and hypertension ; as the dose increases, caffeine causes tachycardia , blood pressure changes and tremors even in healthy people.
  • The lipolytic effect, i.e. promoting weight loss, is canceled and even reversed if sugar is added to the coffee (+ 20 caloriesteaspoon) or milk (+ 10 calories if the coffee is macchiato).
  • The inhibitory effect on the absorption of calcium and iron can favor the onset of anemic and osteoporotic conditions .

How Much Coffee To Drink

A reasonable limit is set at 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. Since an espresso provides an average of 60 mg of caffeine and a mocha type 85, the math is quickly done. However, since caffeine is present in over 60 plant species, including chocolate and tea , the contribution of other foods must also be considered .

On the basis of these considerations, a limit of three cups of espresso per day is generally set – for women and men with a slender build – and four cups for men with a more robust physical constitution (strong, for the record, is also the species of coffee – Coffea robusta – richer in caffeine).

During pregnancy it is a good rule to limit the consumption of coffee as much as high doses of caffeine are dangerous for the health of the fetus .



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