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If you must drink, drink coffee

By Sola Ogundipe
COFFEE drinking has been prescribed as one of the most cost-effective means of attaining a healthy lifestyle in today’s hustle and bustle of city life. So it is hardly surprising people really like coffee. The morning ritual of brewing a cup, the smell that perks you up before you take a sip and, of course, the flavor all make it one of the favorite beverages.

Coffee is fine in moderation. It has lots of antioxidants and is low in calories if you don’t load it up with cream and sugar. There are always new reasons to take more coffee.

Moderate coffee drinkers (1 to 3 cups/day) have lower rates of stroke than non-coffee drinkers, an effect linked to coffee’s antioxidants. Coffee has more antioxidants per serving than blueberries, making it the biggest source of antioxidants.

All those antioxidants may help suppress the damaging effect of inflammation on arteries. Immediately after drinking it, coffee raises blood pressure and heart rate, but over the long term, it actually may lower blood pressure as coffee’s antioxidants activate nitric oxide, widening blood vessels.

The antioxidants (chlorogenic acid and quinides, specifically) play another role: boosting your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. In fact, people who drink four or more cups of coffee each day may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It looks like the more coffee people drink, the lower their incidence of cirrhosis and other liver diseases. One analysis of nine studies found that every 2-cup increase in daily coffee intake reduced liver cancer risk by 43 percent. Again, it’s those antioxidants—chlorogenic and caffeic acids and caffeine that might prevent liver inflammation and inhibit cancer cells.

Drinking between 1 and 5 cups a day (admittedly a big range) may help reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease.  Antioxidants may ward off brain cell damage and help the neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function to work better.

Studies show that 200 milligrams of caffeine—about the amount in 16 ounces of brewed coffee—provides relief from headaches, including migraines.

Exactly how caffeine relieves headaches isn’t clear. But scientists do know that caffeine boosts the activity of brain cells, causing surrounding blood vessels to constrict.

One theory is that this constriction helps to relieve the pressure that causes the pain. However, this is not to say that coffee doesn’t have any pitfalls—it does.

This was the message for all Nigerians last week in Lagos, during the unveiling of the Ignite programme, an educational campaign targeted at enlightening Nigerians about coffee and health with scientific data and research.

Consultant Cardiologist and Associate professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Dr. Jane Ajuluchukwu, observed that there is so much assumption and mystery around the subject of coffee such that many people are quite unaware of its health benefits and factors.

Ajuluchukwu who is Coordinator of the Ignite scientific committee, observed: “Just like there is need to consume a recommended amount of every useful body nutrients, coffee should be consumed in moderation. If not abused, coffee has some health benefits which could be very helpful for people.”

She noted that it is common knowledge that coffee contains caffeine like many other beverages but fear, lack of information and superstitions are responsible for the level of enlightenment concerning coffee. She argued that science has proven that coffee is good for stimulating mental alertness and curing Parkinson’s disease amongst numerous other functions but people need to have the truth backed with data to make their choices.


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