At times, we all feel sleepy, tired, and devoid of energy - right after getting up in the morning, in the midst of all-night studying for the exam, or during an especially stressful day at work. A cup of coffee or an energy drink seems like a great way to boost that energy level. And that’s what most people do – they drink coffee and energy drinks to keep them awake and alert and then those drinks become a part of their lifestyle. In fact, coffee has become one of the most popular drinks in the world and an irreplaceable part of the day and daily routine. Some people drink a single cup to wake up in the morning, while others drink cup after cup all day and their daily consumption could be as much as five or six cups. It is not surprising that people have started to worry that drinking coffee and energy drinks may be dangerous for the heart. The debate over whether coffee and energy drinks are safe has been raging for years. Here are both sides of the story.
The dangers of drinking coffee
Whether coffee is safe or dangerous mostly depends on the quality of the coffee. It is true that drinking small amounts of coffee that is of high quality, fresh, and grown without pesticides (an incredible rarity!) has more benefits than dangers. Unfortunately, the coffee most of us buy in shops and cafes or in coffee machines have been shown to be relatively dangerous for the following reasons:
- Coffee contains a lot of caffeine, and caffeine has been proven to increase the blood pressure. This increase is especially noticeable in people who already have hypertension. However, even people who have normal blood pressure experience an increase after they drink several cups of coffee.
- Drinking a large quantity of unfiltered coffee, whether it is espresso or plain boiled coffee, can lead to an increase in the cholesterol level, which can be dangerous for the heart.
- The bodies of individuals who have slow metabolism cannot break down coffee easily and the result is an increased risk of heart disease.
- Very few people drink plain black coffee. Most consume it with large amounts of sugar and cream which contain a lot of calories and fat.
Besides being dangerous for the heart, coffee may also have some other negative effects on the body. Here are just a few of them:
- Drinking coffee in the morning on an empty stomach forces the body to produce hydrochloric acid, making it more difficult for the body to produce the acid when it is crucially needed. This damages protein digestion and can lead to gas, bloating, diverticulitis, IBS, and colon cancer.
- Coffee can often cause heartburn. Coffee relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and prevents it from closing so as to not allow the contents of the stomach to coming up into the esophagus and burning the lining.
- Coffee has an acidic effect which can initiate the formation of ulcers. The acidity can even irritate the lining of the small intestine and cause cramps, abdominal spasms, and elimination problems.
The benefits of drinking coffee
Some people claim coffee has many benefits and that it does not pose a health danger. In fact, most of the recent studies found no real relationship between coffee and heart disease. These studies showed that many of the dangers usually associated with coffee are really the result of other bad habits that often go hand in hand with coffee. These include smoking, chronic sleep deprivation, and the lack of physical exercise. Many people who drink coffee and lead a healthy lifestyle do not suffer from heart disease or other conditions associated with coffee. In fact, coffee contains quite a few nutrients and antioxidants which are beneficial to a person’s health. Here are some of the benefits coffee has been shown to have:
- It may be able to protect against liver disease, liver cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
- It increases a person’s energy level, helps them be more productive, and improves brain function.
- It decreases one’s chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes. It was shown that people who drink a lot of coffee have a 23-50% lower chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.
- It increases fat burn. In fact, practically every fat burning supplement contains caffeine. Caffeine is the natural substance that increases the metabolic rate by 3-11% and boosts fat burn by as much as 29% in thin people and 10% in fat people.
- The caffeine in coffee causes fat cells to break down the fat and make free fatty acids available as fuel. More fuel means that people who drink coffee feel an improvement in their physical performance.
- It can sometimes improve the cognitive function.
- It is sometimes effective in preventing depression.
- It contains many beneficial nutrients, such as Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.
- It may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Coffee drinkers have a 65% less chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
What about other energy drinks?
Although coffee can be considered an energy drink because of its energy-giving properties, it should not be included in the same group as the modern energy drinks. Although these energy drinks often have caffeine, they lack many of the other healthy nutrients present in coffee. When the drinks are consumed in small amounts, the danger is relatively low. Unfortunately, these energy drinks usually contain a lot of sugars and flavors, making them easy to drink, and cause people to drink these drinks in large quantities. Drinking a small amount of energy drink is fine, but consuming several cans can cause severe health problems. Here are just a few of them:
- Cardiac arrest - The quantity of energy drinks that one can safely consume is different for every person. Individuals who have a heart condition may go into cardiac arrest after drinking just a few energy drinks.
- Type 2 diabetes - Energy drinks contain a large amount of sugar, which increases one’s chance of getting Type 2 diabetes. These types of drinks often cause headaches, migraines, and caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
- Addiction - Caffeine is addictive. When people change the amount of caffeine they consume, headaches and migraines increase.
- Insomnia - Energy drinks often cause insomnia, and lead to decreased concentration and impaired function.
- Vomiting - Too many energy drinks can cause vomiting, which in turn can cause dehydration, teeth erosion and inflammation of the esophagus.
There are many different studies. Some show that coffee is dangerous for one’s health, and others show that it is beneficial. This means that the answer is not black and white. Coffee can be healthy and beneficial, but only if it is of high quality, fresh, and grown without the use of pesticides. Another crucial factor is the amount of coffee consumed. Drinking a moderate amount of coffee is healthy, but too much coffee can cause many health problems. The same goes for energy drinks – they can be consumed only in small amounts! So the key is to drink quality drinks and watch the amount you consume.