Our love of coffee

In western cultures, coffee has finally overtaken tea as the drink of choice – with many people downing two cups or more every day. But what is it about coffee that has led to the steady increase in global consumption? It’s time to take a closer look.

Consumption on the Rise

The global demand for coffee has risen steadily over the last decade and is projected to increase by up to 25% by 2020. Coffee has long been considered the go-to drink for a ‘pick-me-up’, due to the stimulating nature of caffeine. The fact that it’s drinkable in so many different forms (as any extensive cafe drinks menu will readily prove), makes it an appealing and fairly universal choice.

Caffeine related health benefits

Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, Ulster University and others have shown that moderate (1-5 cups a day) caffeine consumption can actually have health benefits. The coffee bean is naturally high in antioxidants and has been linked to a lowered risk of chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes, liver and colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Mental Alertness

Drinking coffee can also have an immediate effect on our mental alertness and cognitive functioning – something any regular coffee drinker will tell you. A number of studies have confirmed that consuming caffeine when sleep-deprived will improve all the major markers of intelligence – including reaction time, attention span, vigilance and logical reasoning. However, this doesn’t make it a substitute for a good night’s sleep.

Improved athletic performance

Coffee consumption can also help with athletic performance in endurance-based activities, as it increases the amount of fatty acids in the bloodstream. This promotes the metabolising of fats as an energy source rather than the faster-depleted carbohydrates.

The downside to coffee

Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that it creates a release of adrenaline after consumption, which can raise your blood pressure and resting heart rate. This stimulating effect can play around with our sleep patterns – caffeine takes around six hours to wear off and leave the system completely. If you are sensitive to caffeine, drinking coffee too late in the day will really mess with the quality of your sleep.

Because of the addictive nature of caffeine there is the potential for withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue when we stop drinking it. As our bodies become accustomed to the effects of caffeine, it takes more and more of it to have the same impact. This higher dosage takes a bigger toll on the body and is why heavy coffee drinkers often struggle with headaches when trying to cut down.

Regular consumption can also lead to teeth becoming stained yellow-brown over time, with the excess consumption of both milk and sugar leading to weight gain.

The Real Cost

Buying just one coffee a day from a cafe can set you back between $20-$25 a week, that’s a whopping $1300 a year; with many of us are buying more than one a day, it can really blow the budget!

Approaching coffee with an ‘everything in moderation’ mindset will allow you to both enjoy a delicious cup and stay healthy in the long run.

Source: This is an edited extract from ‘Our love of coffee’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at https://benestar.com/. For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit https://www.afa.asn.au/afa-care