Better latte than never: coffee & wellbeing

15th June 2020 | Eativity editors

Being locked in our homes hasn’t put a dampener on Australians’ passion for coffee. While the number of visits to cafes and coffee outlets dropped significantly during lockdown – down 39% according to research and analytics firm Uno Group – this hasn’t meant we’re drinking any less. Instead, home coffee consumption shot up. Nielsen Homescan data showed that Australian households spent an additional 37% on coffee from grocery outlets for in-home consumption during the peak of the pandemic.

Australians aren’t letting a little pandemic get in the way of their love affair with coffee.

Whether coffee is good for you or not is a continuing topic of scientific debate and conjecture. According to recent research from the University of South Australia, whether it’s good or bad for your health could all depend upon your genes.

Using data from over 300,000 participants in the UK Biobank – a massive long-term study that’s investigating genetic predispositions and environmental exposure in the development of disease – researchers examined connections between genetically instrumented habitual coffee consumption and a full range of diseases, finding that too much coffee can increase the risk of osteoarthritis, joint disease and obesity.

“Reassuringly, our results suggest that moderate coffee drinking is mostly safe,” says UniSA’s Professor Elina Hyppönen, a genetic epidemiologist.

“But it also showed that habitual coffee consumption increased the risks of three diseases: osteoarthritis, arthropathy [joint disease] and obesity, which can cause significant pain and suffering for individuals with these conditions.”

Professor Hyppönen says that for people with a family history of osteoarthritis or arthritis, or for those who are worried about developing these conditions, these study findings should act as a cautionary message.

“The body generally sends powerful messages with respect to coffee consumption, so it’s imperative that individuals listen to these when consuming coffee,” she says.

“While these results are in many ways reassuring in terms of general coffee consumption, the message we should always remember is: consume coffee in moderation – that’s the best bet to enjoy your coffee and good health, too.”

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Coffee linked to lower body fat

In slightly more encouraging news, another recent study from Anglia Ruskin University, UK, has found that moderate coffee consumption is linked to lower body fat in women.

Researchers found that women who drink two or three cups of coffee a day have lower total body fat and abdominal fat than those who drink less.

Overall, the average total body fat percentage was 2.8% lower among women of all ages who drank two or three cups of coffee per day. Interestingly, these findings were consistent whether the coffee consumed was caffeinated or decaffeinated.

The relationship was less significant in men, but those aged 20-44 who drank two or three coffees a day had 1.3% less total fat and 1.8% less trunk fat than those who didn’t drink it.

“Our research suggests that there may be bioactive compounds in coffee other than caffeine that regulate weight and which could potentially be used as anti-obesity compounds,” says senior study author Dr Lee Smith.

“It could be that coffee, or its effective ingredients, could be integrated into a healthy diet strategy to reduce the burden of chronic conditions related to the obesity epidemic.”

I think there’s something in that for all of us.

Which brew is best for the heart?

A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has revealed the healthiest way to make your daily cuppa: filtered brew is safest. It’s the first study to examine links between coffee brewing methods and risks of heart attacks and death, and the results were a long time coming – study participants were followed for an average of 20 years.

“Our study provides strong evidence of a link between coffee brewing methods, heart attacks and longevity,” says study author Professor Dag Thelle of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. “Unfiltered coffee contains substances which increase blood cholesterol. Using a filter removes these, making heart attack and premature death less likely.”

The researchers also found that filtered coffee was safer than no coffee at all. Compared to no coffee, filtered brew was linked with a 15% lower risk of death from all causes.

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