© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D. & G.N. Jacobs
There was an old cartoon about how in the old days we would meet over coffee and cigarettes to discuss our problems, but now coffee and cigarettes are our problems. Forty years of propaganda has had an affect on smoking, but we really love our coffee a fact that has kept Starbucks in business. This is despite a similar wealth of studies about caffeine being unhealthy to drink.
Caffeine may help give you osteoporosis and several other diseases of the modern age like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additionally, too much caffeine can have mental and emotional effects like increasing anxiety and aggression and the drink is quite addictive.
Metabolically, the culprit is caffeine’s effect on the body’s sugar cycle. Catecholmines are released raising the heart rate and excess sugar into the bloodstream. This leads to both high blood sugar and low blood sugar because the pancreas can overreact to wipe out the excess. The high part of the cycle is why we drink coffee and then we crash when the blood sugar becomes too low. Type-2 diabetes results when the pancreas quits working after sustained abuse in this cycle.
Bone loss occurs in this process because calcium is pulled from bones to even out the acidity of too much sugar in the blood. The pH returns to an equilibrium at the expense of the bones. Supplements don’t help because the body is completely out of homeostasis, just as if sugar had replaced the caffeine in the diet. The patient is simply chasing an imbalance with more imbalances.
Some studies suggest that 3 cups of regular coffee can pull 45 ml of calcium from the bones. The body excretes the excess into the urine never to return until the patient stops the cycle by eating healthier and exercising more. Over time this daily dose will weaken anybody’s bones.
Caffeinated coffee has also been shown to raise cholesterol across the board leading to concerns about heart attacks and strokes. The testing suggests that a half-cup of regular coffee may be the upper limit before the effects kick in.
Caffeine also raises blood pressure. One study hooked drinkers up to automatic monitoring devices and let them drink their normal coffee intake. The heavy drink segment (3 to 6 daily cups) showed dramatic rises in blood pressure, but only during morning hours where most of the coffee was consumed.
Entomologists fed caffeine to insects and discovered that insects get just as irritable and anxious as humans suggesting that caffeine evolved as a natural pest repellent. We refer to ‘coffee jitters’ and tell people to drink more decaf when dealing with those who can’t relax. Naturally, this hyper state can lead to anxiety even panic attacks. Panic has long been recognized as precursor to rage and aggression can increase with long-term coffee usage. Hospitals that remove caffeine from the vending machines notice decreases in damage from angry patients and guests.
Lastly, we want to warn people that the cheaper methods for making decaf coffee may also be part of the problem because instead of using water the manufacturer uses chemical stripping agents that may still be in the coffee grounds in trace amounts. Many of these chemicals may cause cancer or other such problems. Reading labels, or better, yet, drinking less coffee, can solve this issue.
Carmel, Harold, “Caffeine and Aggression” HOSPITAL AND COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRY. June, 1991;42(6):637-638.
Conway, Claire, “Truth and Consequences of Coffee” STANFORD MEDICINE. Winter 1991;24-26.
Fried Roy E. et al., “The Effect of Filtered Coffee Consumption on Plasma Lipid Levels: Result of a Randonized Clinical Trial” Journal of the American Medical Association. Feb.12, 1992;267(6):811-815.