Coffee As Medicine: the Right Dose

We have written frequently about the benefits of regular and organic coffee for your health. More and more the world has come to realize the medical benefits of coffee, both the caffeine and antioxidants. Because we could think only of the health benefits of coffee, we should consider coffee as medicine and ask what is the right dose? Forbes seems to have been thinking along those same lines as they write about the right doses of coffee and alcohol.

The world’s most-used stimulant and best-loved depressant – caffeine and alcohol, respectively – have shared an interesting phenomenon in recent years: They’ve both moved from the probably-not-healthy-but-socially-acceptable category to the probably-healthy-in-moderation-because-science-says-so category. Based on the scientific evidence of the last decade or two, coffee is now believed to reduce risk of everything from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases to depression to erectile dysfunction to some forms of cancer to overall mortality. Alcohol is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and perhaps even curb obesity and type 2 diabetes risk. Each drug has been shown to have these much-desired health benefits, and few risks, provided they’re consumed in moderation. The operative words are of course in moderation.

A study by the European Food Safety Authority indicates that 400 mg of caffeine a day, the equivalent of five shots of espresso is safe over the long run. Pregnant and breast feeding mothers should cut this in half. This is good news for coffee as medicine as a dose of four cups a day is where the health benefits are most pronounced.

The Goldilocks Approach

Not too little and not too much but just right is the moral of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It would seem to fit with finding the right dose of coffee as medicine. The drawbacks of too much coffee include stomach upset, acid reflux and wakefulness at night. The drawbacks of too little coffee are that the many benefits mentioned in the Forbes article do not come into play. Some of the benefits of coffee such as alleviation of depression come from caffeine so one could simply drink a coca cola. But the antioxidants are what kick in to help prevent various forms of cancer and Type II diabetes so the four to five cups, equivalent to five shot of espresso is probably ideal.

Condition Specific Dose of Coffee

Women who report drinking four cups of coffee a day have the best reduction of diabetes incidence. Just one or two cups an hour in advance are sufficient to boost athletic performance. Research shows that more is a waste of time. If you are drinking coffee to stay awake while studying for finals all bets are off as you need to stay focused for as long as it takes. The downside is that if you consistently drink lots and lots of coffee you eventually need to sleep and may take a long time to wake up. And, the caffeine in excessive amounts is an acid stimulant and that can lead to ulcers and acid reflux.

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