Your Cup of Joe: Friend or FOE???
image photo : Jar of coffee and coffee cup

Did your kids ever watch the sitcom “Saved by the Bell”? The theme song lists all the things that could make someone late happening all in one morning! Ever have one of those days?

Saving the psychological and quantum science analysis of this for another date, that’s the morning most would want to reach for a little pick me up. Or, as my niece says, “I need a lil’ somethin’, somethin’.”

“Coffee anyone?”

image photo : Coffee Drinker Cup of Java Too Much Caffeine

If your health conscious and tracking news, you might hesitate. That’s because you’ve noticed coffee has been in the media swapping headlines between villain and superhero.

The good news for coffee lovers is that there have been some pretty consistent studies on the positive side for your favorite hot beverage. Specifically, various studies correlate moderate coffee consumption to a lessened chance of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer! Cool! (Or hot?)

Other studies point to some not so promising effects of consumption. These include loss of sleep, addiction, and mineral depletion.

Let’s take a look at why coffee is such a hot topic (pun intended).

Coffee’s Admirable Qualities
image photo : Coffee

Brain Booster

According to the International Coffee Association (who may be a bit biased?):

It is estimated that more than two billion cups are drunk worldwide every day…

According to the U.S. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, not only does the aroma of brewed coffee cause pleasure, it also has powerful antioxidant properties, neutralizing free radicals and thus protecting the body’s cells from damage caused by stress. Once we do actually take a sip of this tantalizing brew, we are infused with a sense of well-being – both relaxed and invigorated, exhilarated yet clearheaded.

image photo : Coffee cup

The following abstract demonstrated to an ever greater degree coffee’s effect on memory, specifically in those with Alzheimer’s disease. The study demonstrated coffee’s positive effects on complex immune signaling pathways in rat’s brains, mitigating cognitive impairment.

Retrospective and prospective epidemiologic studies suggest that enhanced coffee/caffeine intake during aging reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Underscoring this premise, our studies in AD transgenic mice show that long-term caffeine administration protects against cognitive impairment and reduces brain amyloid-? levels/deposition through suppression of both ?- and ?-secretase. Because coffee contains many constituents in addition to caffeine that may provide cognitive benefits against AD, we examined effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on plasma cytokines, comparing their effects to caffeine alone…

We conclude that coffee may be the best source of caffeine to protect against AD because of a component in coffee that synergizes with caffeine to enhance plasma GCSF levels, resulting in multiple therapeutic actions against AD. PMID: 21422521

image photo : Coffee collage

The antioxidants found in whole, organic, dark roasted coffee beans can provide for blood vessel protection. The compounds such as caffeine and theobromine can modulate mood and various other components within the bean may signal the immune system to ward off brain aging! These effects could be lost in processing and isolation.Therefore, it seems that the whole bean approach of coffee is best.

Coffee is one example of how cutting out pleasure and isolating one “component,” without looking at the whole, is not always good!

Dr. Eichesldoerfer shared her viewpoints on the use of coffee in a healthy diet in my recent Naturopathic Journal:

For years, the public, along with much of the naturopathic community, has viewed coffee (especially caffeinated) drinking as less than healthy, if not downright unhealthy. It may be time to rethink this notion. The Western diet (or the Standard American Diet) is relatively low in antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. Coffee, tea, and chocolate represent 3 foods high in antioxidants that remain common. While essential that we encourage patients to eat more of antioxidant rich colored fruits and vegetables, it may not be advisable to suggest a blanket decrease in another (coffee), unless clear evidence points to harm for that individual patient.

The Dark Side of the Boost

Go for Quality Not Quantity!

Now, my colleagues who hesitate to recommend this beverage have some good points regarding overconsumption of coffee in certain individuals. Dr. Hyman points out that for those sensitive individuals (such as those who drink one cup and “feel it” or have a SNP in liver detoxification), coffee can tax their little delicate systems. It has the potential to increase stress hormones (because their livers can’t clear them out fast enough), depress sleep function, deplete minerals, create blood sugar imbalances, and set up for an addiction. Yikes. But, remember, this is because some are trying to run their body on a medicinal beverage that is meant to be drunk in moderation, not like water.

image photo : Got coffee?

This may be why coffee has gotten jaded, if processed. Let’s look into this more…

Chemicalized Sludge if Not High Quality

Perhaps, some of the negative claims against coffee could be related to the chemicals from processing the (nonorganic) beans. (Furthermore, this would not apply to the occasional treat of creamy, mocha-fudge, brownie, yummy and gooey Starbucks “coffee”).

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry:

Then there’s the suspected carcinogen acrylamide (2-propenamide), which is highly water-soluble and also thought to come from the Maillard reaction. Last March the European Chemical Agency added acrylamide to its ‘list of substances of very high concern’. Acrylamide formation peaks at some point in the roasting process before decreasing significantly. The degree of roasting is therefore a key factor in determining acrylamide content, says Rita Alves, from the University of Porto in Portugal.

Alves and her team have analyzed acrylamide levels in espresso coffee and shown that light roasts contain significantly more acrylamide than dark ones. Bean type also appears to affect acrylamide levels and Robusta  espressos contain almost twice as much acrylamide as their Arabica  counterparts, says Alves. She estimates that what she calls a ‘moderate’ espresso consumer who drinks 3-5 cups per day will probably ingest about 4-6ug of acrylamide per day.

Alves admits that it is nigh on impossible to cut acrylamide levels in coffee without affecting quality, but suggests opting for higher levels of Arabica beans and a darker roast. A short espresso rather than a ‘lungo’, which takes twice as long to prepare, may also have a lower level of acrylamide because the chemical has less opportunity to transfer to the drink, she says.


So, what’s the underlying message? As with most things…moderation and trust your body!

Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic maverick in health, also recently commented on coffee’s comeback:

For years, physicians have been warning about the negative health effects of drinking coffee. You may have been told that coffee will raise your blood pressure, lead to heart disease, give you an ulcer or make you diabetic. But studies continue to roll in that caste doubt on this “common wisdom.”

Certainly, like anything, coffee should not be used in excess. However, study after study has failed to prove that moderate coffee consumption increases your risk for cardiovascular disease or any other serious illness.

In fact, it’s beginning to look like coffee—at least in moderation—may have a number of unrecognized health-promoting properties. As a result of the rather impressive list of therapeutic benefits, I’ve changed my recommendations about coffee.

So, next time your colleague asks you out for coffee, you may not have to pass it over for tea! It seems like coffee may be taking a side-kick role with dark chocolate, who for years was misunderstood and demonized.


International Coffee Organization. About Coffee. Accessed 10/5/12.

Cao C, Wang L, Lin X, Mamcarz M, Zhang C, Bai G, Nong J, Sussman S, Arendash G. Caffeine synergizes with another coffee component to increase plasma GCSF: linkage to cognitive benefits in Alzheimer’s mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2011;25(2):323-35.

Petra Eichelsdoerfer, ND, CN, RPh. The Complex Health Effects of Coffee. Revisiting coffee’s effects on health and mortality. Natural Medicine Journal. 9/5/2012

Dr. Hyman. Ten Reasons to Quite Your Coffee. drhyman. Com. June 13, 2012.

RSC. Chemistry in Every Cup. May 2011.  Royal Society of Chemistry 2012.

Steven Reinberg. Health Day. Coffee Might Raise Glaucoma Risk. 10/4/12.

Mercola, J.  Mounting Evidence Suggests Coffee May Actually Have Therapeutic Health Benefits September 16, 2012.

Osterweil, N. Coffee and Your Health. WebMD. Accessed 10/5/12.

News & Fun Stuff:

1. Check out this wonderful health support tool!


Dr. Oz has done a superb job on bringing together various experts in conventional and integrative medicine. The result of this collaboration is a wonderful comprehensive viewpoint on health issues from all sides.

This link provides my latest answers:

2. Read about the benefits of chocolate, meditation, and broccoli at my Living Well Blog

3. Current Patients, please review the following expectations for payment, fees, and the options of acute consultations in between visits :) :
Person under crumpled pile of papers with help sign

We appreciate for your understanding on our dedication to keep the focus on your individualized health and support vs. bookkeeping.