I have been writing for this publication for nearly 20 years and rarely have I shared any medical aspects of my personal life-until this issue. I have a disclosure to share with our readers: I have an addiction problem. I have been addicted to caffeine for many years, often consuming six-eight caffeinated beverages per day. I consumed coffee because of the energy boost I received from the beverage. Little did I know that caffeine in moderation or 1-3 cups a day had medicinal benefits.
It has now been studied that caffeine, in moderation, has health benefits that include improvement in mental performance, possible disease protection, as well as a vehicle for providing milk in your diet.
Coffee contains valuable antioxidants which are responsible for decreased disease risk. These antioxidants also exert other beneficial effects such as anti-inflammatory actions. Also noted is that coffee contains small amounts of essential nutrients such as potassium, niacin, vitamin E and magnesium; the latter which helps the body efficiently use the hormone insulin, which promotes the passage of glucose into the cells of the body for the purpose of cellular energy.
One caution: designer drinks from one of the coffee shops like a Starbucks Macchiato can be adding a fair amount of calories to the diet. A better option would be a fat-free milk latte which is beneficial by adding milk to your diet. This is helpful because most Americans consume only 50% of the milk that is recommended by American Dietetic Association; however, if you use fat-free milk, it is one way to ensure your daily calcium and vitamin D needs are met. Both calcium and vitamin D are necessary for good bone health. If your diet does not include dairy products, then a fortified soy beverage is a calcium-rich alternative.
I have also found it helpful to spice up my coffee with cinnamon or vanilla powder. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols that’s making your coffee even more healthy.
What’s the recommended amount of coffee you should consume each day? Most experts agree that three, 8-ounce cups a day is considered moderate coffee consumption. Caffeine does not cause high blood pressure; although, it has been shown to increase blood pressure for a short duration. Certain groups such as people with hypertension and the elderly may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of caffeine. Also, pregnant and breast-feeding women should limit caffeine intake to a maximum of 200-300 milligrams a day or the amount in 2-3 cups of coffee per day.
For those who want to avoid caffeine, a cup of decaf coffee or decaf tea has about 4 milligrams of caffeine as compared to 130 milligrams in a cup of regular coffee.
Bottom Line: Like most other foods and fluids, moderation in caffeine consumption, 2-3 cups per day, is recommended. (I’ll let you know how I’m doing with my addiction in a future article!)
Dr. Neil Baum is a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School.
He can be reached at 504-891-8454 or through his website, www.neilbaum.com.