Do you get that niggling feeling of guilt each morning as you pop into Starbucks on your way to work? That 'I know I shouldn't drink this, but I really need it' thought as you pour yourself that start of the day 'pick me up' cup of coffee before launching into the frenzy of your day? We all know that coffee is 'bad' for us. We have been told it repeatedly by the media for months and years now.
But is coffee really such a dangerous drink?
I first got an inkling that all might not be as it seems when I cautioned my Colombian friend about the vast quantities of coffee she seemed to be drinking. She laughed at my helpful hints and told me flat that I was completely wrong. In Colombia apparently, the other name for coffee is 'medicine' and Colombians, many of whom are poor and have limited access to pharmaceutical medicine, use it to improve - not damage - their health.
Colombians drink real coffee, freshly ground. And they drink it black, and repeatedly, through the day. In her opinion, the problems come from what we all add to our cups of coffee. The vast numbers of calories that we get from the milk, the heaps of sugar and the various optional flavourings that increase weight and slow metabolism.
Amazed, and very hopeful, I decided to check out the science. The latest research shows that she, and all her fellow Colombians, could definitely be right. The coffee marketing board must be rejoicing!
It seems the more coffee you drink (though the research doesn't mention whether it's pure unadulterated black coffee, or a frothy, milky latte) the healthier you will become and the longer you will live. I am taking it for granted it's the straight coffee they are analysing.
In 2014 Harvard Chan school researchers found that increasing your current coffee drinking level by a cup a day over a 4 year period reduced the risk of diabetes 2 by 11 percent. Decreasing it by more than a cup a day did the opposite, and increased the risk by 17%.
Another study showed that coffee helps cut the risk factor for diabetes 2 in half if you drink 4 or 5 cups through the day compared to non-coffee drinkers. It also lowers levels of liver enzymes and protects against liver cancer, Parkinson's and cirrhosis. And other studies show that there is no link between high blood sugar and heavy coffee drinking. In fact, coffee lowers blood sugar and levels of inflammation.
The benefits go on and on... and on. And although several of the studies are observational only, which doesn't 'prove' the various points sufficiently for science, the numbers involved were massive and the pictures that emerged clear.
A 2013 Harvard study looked at 36 studies of over a million people and confirmed that drinking coffee didn't increase the risk of heart disease after all, but that 3-5 cups of coffee daily actually protected against it.
Coffee seems to makes a difference to when you die too, and what you die of. Another study of 520,000 people from 10 European countries, observed over 16 years, showed that the more coffee drunk, the lower the risk of death. Three cups of coffee or more a day lowered men's risk of dying early by 12% and women by 7% compared to non-coffee drinkers.
In a second study, 185,500+ people in America, of all nationalities, race and colours, were asked by researchers about their coffee drinking habits. This study found reductions in risk of dying from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, kidney and lung disease for the coffee drinkers. People who drank three cups a day were 18% less likely to die early than people who drank no coffee and 12% less likely if they drank one cup daily rather than none at all. Four cups a day was shown to lower depression in women.
Apparently it's the caffeine and the anti-oxidant polyphenols that does it. And decaf coffee has the same health benefits as full caff.
Remarkably then, the conclusion from the scientists seems to be that you can safely drink up to five cups a day with no health problems.
And other cool things coffee does....
Did you know coffee reduces cellulite?
Take the leftover grounds from your now five daily cups of 'real' coffee, and add olive oil to make into a smooth paste. Take it with you into the shower and massage in small circular movements over the areas that are affected. Your skin takes in whatever you put on it in 26 seconds flat, but I recommend massaging away for 3 minutes or more at least. Rinse off and repeat once a week. After 6 months you will notice a difference (at least you will if you take before and after photos so you have a record). Coffee grounds increase circulation and their anti-oxidants stimulate collagen. Your cellulite should eventually look much improved.
And you can put it up your bottom!
Everyone drinks coffee, but did you know you can use it to clean out your bowels too? Water enemas have been used for centuries to help with health issues, and the Gerson Institute has advocated the use of coffee enemas during cancer treatment since the 1950s.
Coffee enemas remove toxins that have built up in your liver, releasing bile and removing free radicals from your bloodstream. They are simple to do, and a painless procedure that flushes out heavy metals, fungus, candida and bacteria from the digestive tract. Enemas help with inflammation and toxicity, leaving you feeling energised and free from constipation. Google for precise instructions on the perfect enema, but it's inexpensive and you need just a few minutes in the privacy of your own bathroom (see our enema video in the post on detox). The hepatic vein sits directly inside your rectum, and can carry the coffee directly to your liver in a matter of seconds. The coffee then triggers the liver to release toxins that are then carried out of your body in an outpouring of bile. Hey presto! A cleaner liver, flat stomach and bags of energy.
Any signs of a cold, disappear into your bathroom, do a coffee enema, and that is usually the end of it. A coffee enema a day definitely keeps colds at bay!
And it's a natural, non-toxic way to beat mosquitos
And last but by no means least, did you know that coffee is one of the best anti-wasp and mosquito devices out there? Make a pile of coffee grounds on a plate or any container that you don't mind lighting with a match, and hey presto! You have a stream of coffee-smelling smoke that is the bane of all mosquitos' (and their unwelcome insect friends) lives. Inexpensive and thoroughly effective. Just make sure you position it upwind.
Clearly we all need more coffee in our lives! Any other interesting coffee effects, please do let me know...
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, who founded one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, The Haven, twenty years ago. With Reboot Health, Sara aims to bring the best preventative and curative health solutions ranging from nutrition, alternative therapies, fitness and conventional medicine.