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Dr. Frank Lipman
Health & Wellness, Nutrition
Coffee: is it good or bad for us?
You might get media whiplash trying to figure that out. The truth is, I find this subject to be as confusing as you probably do. After all, the media certainly doesn’t help clarify whether America’s favorite cup of joe is going to land you in the Doc’s office or set you free with a clean bill of health.
And when one night’s news report conflicts with another’s blatantly contradictory messages, it is no wonder why so many of you shrug your shoulders in utter confusion as you refill your morning mug and get on with your day! And with the velvety aroma and promise of energy from that caffeine jolt, you might rather just assume that there must be something to those beneficial claims…
I know all about this adoration of coffee.
I too was smitten and enamored with Coffea Arabica. We had our courtship during the 1990’s when I worked over 80 hours in the emergency room and saw 30 to 40 patients a day. I traded sleep for espresso, authentic energy for Haagen Daz coffee ice cream and normal circadian rhythms for high speed caffeinated adrenaline rushes.
But then, my body began to communicate to me what I had been attempting to not hear – slow down and let the natural systems assume their proper course. You can read more about how I successfully turned my health around here.
As I began to tune into my body and provide it with what it really wanted – fresh, whole, real, unprocessed foods, sleep, relaxation, and the time to enjoy the life I had created for myself and my family – I was able to break up with coffee and make up with my health. You can too and I’m going to tell you how. But first, let’s discuss what makes coffee such a hot topic widely disputed in today’s health circles.
While there are many controversies about coffee’s role in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease to breast cancer, I’m mostly interested in the conversation relating to its effect on blood sugar metabolism. If you have read my latest book, The Blood Sugar Solution, then you already know how insulin resistance and inflammation are at the core of modern day chronic diseases.
The single most important healthy habit all of us can adopt is to manage our blood sugar by decreasing the triggers that push it out of balance. Curious if coffee is one of those triggers?
As Dr. Walter C. Willet of Harvard School of Public Health says, “Coffee is an amazingly potent collection of biologically active compounds.” Like any food-like substance, coffee has far reaching effects on the body and needs to be respected as a potent drug.
Caffeine, perhaps the most widely appreciated “drug” compound in coffee, only makes up a mere one to two percent of the bean. The chlorogenic acids, caffeol, polyphenols, phytoestrogens and diterpenes are now beginning to be researched on their effects on human health and glucose metabolism as well.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s several prospective cohort studies were done to investigate the correlation between coffee and diabetes. Many of those studies reported that there is an inverse dose-dependent association with the risk of type 2 diabetes.
This means that for reasons still unclear, all those research studies found that the more coffee people with normal blood sugar drank, the less risk appeared for developing type 2 diabetes. Several constituents in coffee might be responsible for these consistent findings.
Chlorogenic acid in coffee might inhibit glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme which regulates blood sugar metabolism in the liver. It could also be due to the indisputably high levels of antioxidants which have a benign effect on insulin sensitivity. Not surprisingly, the news channels then sounded the bell that coffee was protective, and we all enjoyed our cup of joe without any remorse.
Until the next report.
Some curious minds wanted to know exactly who was protected. And why? How? These studies showed that in people with type 2 diabetes coffee intake was correlated with insulin spikes and increased blood sugar after a meal. Further research has shown that the caffeine in coffee might be the culprit responsible for the secretion of higher levels of insulin from the pancreas.
Clearly higher insulin and glucose levels are not the work we want to bestow on a body healing from insulin resistance. Considering that diabesity affects nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide and growing, the nightly news now sounded the alarm of caution that perhaps our coffee habit is a detrimental addiction needing to be kicked to the curb.
I often am asked why coffee is removed from my programs. While certain populations of people may tolerate coffee and even enjoy some health benefits, it is evident that it is not for everyone. Chances are if you are reading this either you or someone you care about is sick, inflamed, hormonally imbalanced, nutritionally-compromised, over worked, stressed out, fatigued, depressed, and toxic. Coffee is not part of the medicine required for your healing.
Here are 10 reasons why:
Now what… If you think you can’t cut that coffee out, think again. I did it and now I want you to feel the same level of renewal and restoration I experienced. It’s a wise experiment to provide yourself a break from coffee intake and see what it feels like to live your life on your own fuel. Remove coffee and caffeine safely from your system and see how authentically energized you feel!
How to Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms
Those who consume the most caffeine, alcohol and sugar, and those who have the highest toxic load, tend to have the most difficulty initially. In any event, symptoms of withdrawal usually disappear after three or four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine and coffee.
Take this quiz to find out how toxic you are.
I know this is a difficult goal but I assure you that your body and mind will thank you. The sense of calm, clarity and restful sleep will reward you with the simple pleasures of innate health and an energy that is rightfully yours.
Now I’d like to hear from you…
Are you addicted to coffee and need caffeine to get through your day?
What have you tried to break free from caffeine and what worked best for you?
Have you developed an appreciation for teas and if so, which are your favorite?
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
Van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. 2006. “Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women.” Diabetes Care (2) 398-403
Tuomilehto J, Hu G, Bidel S, et al. 2004. “Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Among Middle-aged Finnish Men and Women.” JAMA 291: 1213-9.
Moisey LL, Kacker S, Bickerton AC, Robinson LE, Graham TE. 2008. “Caffeinated coffee consumption impairs blood glucose homeostasis in response to high and low glycemic index meals in healthy men.” Am J Clin Nutr 87 (5): 1254-1261
Lane JD, Feinglos MN, Surwit, RS. 2008. “Caffeine Increases Ambulatory Glucose and Postprandial Responses in Coffee Drinkers With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 31(2): 221-222
I’ve quit coffee twice. The first time I did it cold turkey, which was dreadful. The second time, I avoided withdrawal by switching to a half-caffeine coffee for one month. That seemed to be enough of a reduction in caffeine to avoid the withdrawal symptoms I had the first time around.
thank you! i love coffee, i’ve been drinking it since i was 15 years, and i think is a delicious drink, but i have noticed that my body starts to feel sick when i drink more than i should. I usually have one cup in the morning but the problem is that the more tired i feel, the more coffee i drink; son i have 3 or three cups a day. This becomes a huge problem because i feel even worse, so i have tried to leave it, the most i have lasted without drinking is one week haha and then i feel that huge necesity of having something warm in the morning, and this may sound weird but my gut activates with coffee, so i return to that bad habit.
I love tea too, i drink green tea, chai or yogui tea, but my psychological addiction to coffee is so big that i feel that those teas doesn´t have the same effect on me as the coffee.
I have read lots of good and bad things about coffee, but i have felt terrible drinking so much coffee, so i beleive it has more negative things than good things. I am really gonna make an effort to leave it, and thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge with people like me.
In two weeks there will be a report refuting everything in this article. And in two more weeks there will be a report refuting everything in THAT article. No one knows. It’s like anything in life: moderation. The real problem is the articles like this come out and scare the crap out of people. And being human, of course, we overreact. If we didn’t, there would be no such things as Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.
Keep drinking your coffee. Just do it healthily and in moderation, like everything in life should be!
Thanks for this awesome article Mark!
I’ve been really addicted to coffee especially in University. It’s such hard habit to break.
I now try and stick to green teas with the odd black tea thrown into the mix.
Caffeine is so ingrained in today’s fast paced society!!
I’d be interested to know your thoughts on coffee quality. Like most things, the majority of coffee is crap and unless you are getting a single origin, Central American, wash processed bean you are likely getting a large dose of mycotoxins (particularly if you are drinking decaf). I’m a 3 times a week, coffee drinker (as in 1 double shot on M-W-F) to keep the addiction from hitting, bring my own grass-Fed A2 milk with 100% raw Cacao for my Mocha. Every day there is a new “stop eating fat, stop eating carbs, stop drinking coffee, etc, etc” where the message should be “take a deep look at what comprises your diet” or in this case your coffee. Are there upsides and downsides to coffee? Sure, but what is causing those though? are the origins of the coffee beans, the way the coffee was consumed (black, cream, espresso, latte, etc), the quantity of each person controlled in these studies? All good questions that are likely not factors.
The Better answer here is to look at your coffee, what kind of milk are you putting in it? Whole milk from grass-fed, A2 cows? How much sugar and what kind of sugar is in your coffee? Try reducing that down and using a natural source (small amounts of raw honey or raw maple syrup). Switch your chocolate to 100% raw cacao. and most importantly KNOW YOUR BEANS!!! starbucks blend? More like mycotoxin latte. Find a small espresso stand that knows their coffee and buys direct from the growers. Verify how the beans were processed. If you brew your own, get the right beans. Now look at the rest of your diet and apply the same scrutiny and enjoy living much longer :-)
I was consuming approximately 4-6 cups every morning and never thought I would ever be able to stop. I did the 21 day cleanse by Standard Process, which doesn’t allow you to drink coffee, and have now stayed away from it for 3 months.
1. I sell healthy coffee, and have watched it do many wonderful, healthy things for others. 2. I’ve been in the water treatment business for years, and Brita filters are a joke. Next?
I’ve been discovering some exceptional teas. I brew morning tea for a minute or two in a pyrex pitcher and then strain it into a mug, using loose leaves rather than leaves confined in a teabag or infuser. Green, oolong and sometimes black. Current favorites are dragon well (green), gunpowder (green), honey water immortal (oolong!), and Yunnan gold (black). Also hot chocolate the Mayan way–with just a little sweetening (coconut sugar), and some spices. Is chocolate less “dangerous” than coffee?
Excellent article. Thanks Mark.
I’d always been and on-again, off-again coffee drinker (and overall health nut) until I began having autoimmune issues (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac). In addition to feeling tired, overwhelmed, and in a constant mental fog, I gained over 20 pounds in six weeks that no amount of dieting could slow.
On my healing journey I decided to give up coffee again. By day five I had gained four pounds! I went back on the coffee (my typical one to two cups of dark a day with either soy or hemp milk and stevia added) and lost those pounds within the same amount of time. As my sickness also involved some metabolic syndrome symptoms (Acanthosis Nigricans) I’ve decided that coffee is an essential part of my healing process (In addition, my adrenals are fine, so cortisol levels are not an issue).
Of course, I can’t 100% know what is best for my body. I just know that I sleep well, feel great (now), and that coffee only adds to my feelings of well-being. At this weight, I can’t risk even one more pound of fat being added, especially when it comes at a price – Giving up something that makes me happy. Research linking coffee to lowered risk of Diabetes and other problems I’m at risk for only reinforces my decision to keep with coffee.
Great article. Thanks Mark!
I began drinking coffee in my 3rd year of University and now I drink one coffee a day in the morning, after my breakfast to perk me up. At most I’ll have 2 cups a day – the second one comes around 3pm. I tried cutting coffee about 6 months ago and I only lasted a few days. I felt extremely groggy, and I started to get anxiety and I felt depressed. I’ve done a fair amount of research on the pros and cons from coffee. I even took a class that covered coffee as one of the topics in University. I think the quality of the beans makes a big difference in how toxic it is for your body. I live in Toronto and I know for a fact that Tim Hortons coffee uses the lowest grade beans while other non-chained cafes use much higher quality beans. And this is evident in the taste. As well, there’s a difference between drinking a cup of coffee with 3 cream (18%) and 3 white sugars and one that has almond milk and 1 raw sugar. The only time I feel that coffee affects me in a bad way is if I drink the low grade stuff. It tastes like what I imagine a wet ashtray would taste like. Not to mention it hurts my stomach and gives me the shakes.
I must admit that I don’t like the dependency I have on coffee. One of the first things I do before I begin working each day is grab a coffee. Despite the withdrawals I want to try to get rid of the dependency. I think in life we should have a balance and as other have said in their comments, coffee makes us feel good and some of us enjoy the taste (raises hand). However, we shouldn’t be running to the nearest cafe every morning in order to wake up, when we all know that a healthy diet and lifestyle can do that and more! So, this is my commitment to slowly killing the dependency I have with coffee!
Happy withdrawaling everyone!
Healthy Living Made Simple for Busy People
Functional Medicine Expert & Best-selling Author