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Coffee and Health

Joya Hampton



How to brew a great cup of coffee at home -- and save money, too.  Ray Isle of Food & Wine will show us a few tricks.        Coffee is a universal caffeinated beverage that is extremely popular around the world. With the rise in popularity of trendy coffee shops, i.e. Starbucks, among youth and adults alike; people are drinking more coffee due to the convenience of these drive-through coffee shops, creating “coffee addicts” everywhere. For that reason it is appropriate to wonder if this is a good or bad thing with regards to our health. There are wide spread beliefs that coffee is bad for you when one drinks large amounts over a consistent period of time. It was commonly thought that coffee stunted your growth, stained your teeth, and caused heart problems. However research has produced a significant amount of information about the latter. To the delight of self proclaimed coffee addicts everywhere, recent studies have found that antioxidants found in coffee, specifically, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid ( ), could actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Nevertheless, since these claims are fairly new, the general public may be wondering if these claims are valid.



        Before going into the research that has been done, having a basic idea of what an antioxidant does is important. An antioxidant is something that slows down the process of oxidation in molecules. Scientifically, oxidation is defined as the transfer of electrons from one element to its oxidizing agent, causing the element to become reduced. This is a natural process that our body uses to produce energy—which we need. However, this process can be bad because this process produces free radicals when the electrons are transferred. Free radicals are unpaired electrons that are highly reactive.  When there is a constant removal and addition of electrons in the body; these reactions can cause adverse affects to our bodies ( ). In regards to heart health, when cholesterol becomes oxidized the molecules begin to attach to the lining of blood vessels, causing dangerous blockage (



Text Box: The chart shows the top ten sources of antioxidants by mg per serving.        Chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid are all antioxidants found in coffee that have been identified as attributing to heart health. Coffee beans have a large amount of these antioxidants—much more than other antioxidant rich foods and drinks. According to a study lead by Joe Scranton, Ph.D, a professor at the University of Scranton, out of ten common sources of antioxidants, including tea, coffee by far is the largest source of antioxidants ( The Coffee Science Information Centre agrees with this study and reports that “a 200 ml cup of arabica  coffee contains between 70 and 200 mg chlorogenic…” ( health/antioxidants). This is significant because Arabica coffee is what Starbuck’s coffee claims to brew and sell. ( ). The Coffee Science Information center predicts that coffee could give as much as 70% of these antioxidants per serving, making it more antioxidant rich than other popular sources of antioxidants.

                                                                                                                                                                                            RESEARCH IN SUPPORT

There have been many meta-analyses and prospective cohort studies done about this topic. Most have shown that coffee intake does not have a negative effect on cardiovascular health. To begin, a study done by Harvard medical school’s department of medicine did a meta-analysis in which they evaluated 8 case-control studies, and 15 cohort studies. The case controlled odds ratio was 1.63, and the relative risk was 1.05. Statistically, this means that the higher the odds ratio goes above one, then the greater the probability that you will get the disease in question. The same principal applies for the relative risk. The higher the number goes above one, the higher your risk of developing the disease. Therefore, their findings supported the idea that there was not a lot of excess risk of developing heart disease from drinking as much as five cups of coffee a day. (Kawachi, Colditz, & Stone, 1994). Another study conducted by the Channing Laboratory in Boston, MA, supported this conclusion. The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not there was a link between coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in women. The experimental design was a prospective cohort study that included a ten-year follow-up. Throughout the ten years of their study there were 712 cases of coronary heart disease, however after they adjusted for common risk factors such as smoking, and age, they found no link between smoking and coronary heart disease (WC, et al., 1996). A third study was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. This was a prospective cohort study that involved 84,488 men and 44,005 women that had no history of heart disease or cancer. After all of the follow-ups were finished in 2000, they only documented 2173 “incident cases” of coronary heart disease in men, and only 2254 cases in women. After adjusting for the risk factors the relative risk was only found to range from 0.84 to 1.10 in men, and from 0.90 to 1.16 in women. Therefore the evidence did not support coffee intake increased the risk of coronary heart disease (Lopez-Garcia E, 2006).

Despite the results stated above, the opposite has been found. In 2008, a meta-analysis was lead by Jiang-nan Wu at the Department of Medical statistics and epidemiology in Guangzho, China. Prompted by faulty previous research, and the inconsistency of results of other projects done on the subject in the past, this study was comprised of 21 prospective cohort studies from old articles about the topic from as far back as 1966 to 2008. The results of this meta-analysis showed that moderate coffee consumption, defined as 1-3 or 3-4 cups per day, lead to decreased risk of cardiovascular heart disease in women. The conclusion was drawn due to the relative risk range of 0.73-0.92 in women, and a relative risk range of 0.80-0.86 in men (Wu, Ho, Zhou, Ling, & Chen, 2008).   



        Based on the results of these experiments, it is safe to conclude that coffee does not cause a significant decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Being that research suggesting this idea is fairly new, there probably has not been enough time to conduct studies that might fully support the recent theory.




Kawachi, I., Colditz, G., & Stone, C. (1994). Does coffee really increase the risk of coronary heart disease? Results from a meta-analysis. British Heart Journal , 269-275.


Lopez-Garcia E, v. D. (2006). Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. J. Fam. Practice , 757-8.


WC, W., MJ, S., JE, M., GA, C., BA, R., FE, S., et al. (1996). Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in women. A ten-year follow-up. The Journal of the American Medical Association , 458-62.


Wu, J.-n., Ho, S. C., Zhou, C., Ling, W.-h., & Chen, W.-q. (2008). Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology , 1-10. (Lopez-Garcia E, 2006)idant-And-How-Does-It-Benefit-My-Overall-Health?&id=201228 health/antioxidants




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