Coffee talk: what health buffs don’t care to know

Coffee has been around since its earliest known cultivation in southern Arabia about the middle of the 15th century.  From the Muslim world its cultivation and consumption spread to the rest of the world through Arab traders and missionaries.  Today, coffee is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world and the second most traded products in the global commodities market, only behind petroleum.

Coffee is not considered a healthy drink by some people.  But that does not deter millions of people all over the world from relying on the energizing lift of coffee to begin their day and go through their day’s work.  The brief respite from office work or time off from job is even called  “coffee break”, attesting to the worldwide popularity of coffee as a stimulating “energy drink”.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that coffee fuels the world economy.

Yet coffee remains shrouded in mystery as to whether the overall effects of its consumption are good or bad for health.  Studies made on the subject have so far produced conflicting results.  Be that as it may, for many coffee remains a regular breakfast fare and the beverage of choice for, well, coffee break.

Coffee affects people differently depending on their regularity and amount of its consumption.  Those who regularly consume two or more cups of coffee a day tend to be less sensitive to the side effects reported by those who seldom drink it.  For the regular drinkers, coffee is a stimulant which can speed up their body metabolism, especially when taken after a meal.  But that is not to recommend consumption of two or more cups of coffee a day.

The negative effects of coffee are often blamed on caffein, a bitter substance found in coffee (also found in tea and certain beverages) that acts as a stimulant.  But at the same time there are studies that say caffein can boost mental alertness and performance, refresh olfactory receptors and restore appetite.

Have you ever wondered how people working the “graveyard shift” manage to stay awake and alert at work?  Without coffee the world’s production and delivery of goods and services, transportation of all modes, peace and order, road safety, etcetera would suffer and decline.  The thought of half-awake doctors and nurses performing emergency surgery in the wee hours of the night is also unthinkable.  Which is why general hospitals and medical centers have, well, 24/7 cafeterias.

The sight and smell of hot coffee can whet one’s appetite for breakfast, which is considered by all nutritionists as the most important meal of the day.  Talking of breakfast, coffee drinkers like me can’t imagine a breakfast of tapsilog, or longsilog, or tosilog, or what have you without a cup of coffee to wash it down.  Even the quintessential Filipino breakfast fare of “dunkin” pandesal demands a cup of coffee.

To be sure coffee is not for everyone — not for pregnant women, children and people with health conditions such as anxiety disorders, insomnia, migraine and pre-existing heart diseases.  Coffee consumption may also lead to iron deficiency anemia in mothers and infants.

The method of brewing coffee is also important to its health effects.  Brewed coffee which is prepared without paper filter leaves much oil to the drink that might raise the drinker’s level of “bad cholesterol”.

Other studies in recent years however suggest that coffee drinking isn’t so bad after all and may even have real health benefits.  Here are some of the findings of such studies:

1.  Men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day were found to have a 20% reduction in developing prostate cancer.

2.  The presence of antioxidants in coffee prevents free radicals from causing cell damage.

3.  Coffee may counter several risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

4.  Coffee consumption may reduce the risk of being affected by Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, cirrhosis of the liver and gout.

5.  Most nutritionists agree that the benefits of drinking coffee can easily offset its associated drawbacks.

Finally, more business transactions are concluded and friendships renewed over a cup of coffee than a glass of wine, or a mug of beer, or a round of golf.  It’s no small wonder that coffee shops with free Internet access are flourishing in the business and commercial districts of the metropolis.

Fresh brewed coffee, anyone?  Ahh, pure bliss!

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 23 June 2012

 Popular coffee shops in the Philippines (in alpabethical order)

Bo’s Coffee (photo credit:

Café de Lipa (photo credit:

Figaro (me and my wife Elsie at a Figaro store in Baguio City)

Gloria Jean’s (photo credit:

Seattle’s Best (photo credit: twentyfive

Starbucks (me and my wife Elsie at a Starbucks store in Baguio City.)

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (photo credit: panoramio)

UCC Coffee (photo credit:

Popular brands of ground coffee beans (in alpabethical order)

Figaro ground coffee beans

Folgers ground coffee beans

Hills Bros ground coffee beans

Maxwell House ground coffee beans

Seattle’s Best ground coffee beans

Starbucks ground coffee beans

Tim Hortons ground coffee beans