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The Caffeine Debate: The Skinny on Coffee and Weightloss?

Health experts have had a long-standing debate about whether or not caffeine and coffee have negative effects on the body. For many, just the idea of giving up coffee may seem like the end of the world; especially, if you, like me, rely on your daily dose of coffee from a favorite Starbucks barista for social interaction. It can be done, but is it necessary to your health?

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Side Effects of Coffee

Caffeine has been shown to cause headaches, digestive problems, irritation of the stomach and bladder, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. It affects every organ system from the nervous system to the skin. Caffeine raises stress hormone levels, inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body and sensitizes nerve reception sites. One study even links caffeine to an increased susceptibility to diabetes.

Harmful Acids in Coffee

But don’t go grabbing for a cup of decaf. Coffee, whether regular or decaf, is highly acidic. Acidic foods cause your body to produce fat cells. It does this as a defense mechanism creating more fat cells to cushion vital organs from the acids ingested. So, in short, coffee equals increased fat cells. An additional side affect is that coffee contains about thirty different acids, which sucks calcium from bones to act as a neutralizer. Excessive consumption of coffee increases risk for osteoporosis by reducing blood calcium levels, triggering calcium to be pulled from bone and flushing needed calcium out of the body. A mere three cups, (tea cup size, not a Venti), of black coffee per day, can result in up to 45 mg calcium loss.

Caffeine Epinephrine and Cortisol

Caffeine increases epinephrine and cortisol secretion. Cortisol is usually referred to as the, "stress hormone," because it is secreted along with Epinephrine, in response to stress and anxiety. Cortisol secretion signals the body to store fat. Also known as adrenaline, epinephrine is also a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies. During this, “fight-or-flight“ response to caffeine, the adrenal gland releases epinephrine into the blood stream, along with cortisol, signaling the heart to pump harder, increase blood pressure, open airways in the lungs, narrow blood vessels in the skin and intestine, and increase blood flow to major muscles. This is why coffee makes us feel temporarily more alert. It is no wonder, then, that increasing cortisol production has been linked to increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and reduced immune response. Just 15 ounces of your favorite coffee contains enough caffeine to raise your cortisol levels by more than 200 percent. Caffeine also promotes norepinephirne production. The stress hormone norepinephirne, targets your nervous system and brain.

Coffee and Sleep

Sleep and cortisol are also related. A chronically high cortisol level can disturb moods and sleep. Lab tests have shown that cortisol levels are much higher in sleep-deprived individuals. A study published in 2000 by the University of Chicago’s Department of Medicine revealed that, “not only does sleep deprivation affect tiredness and immunity, but too little sleep impairs the way your body handles food by creating impaired glucose tolerance.” This sleep deprivation, which causes lower body temperature and fatigue, usually leads to increased food consumption in your body’s attempt to boost energy and help you stay warm. Again, in this situation, cortisol works in concert with other chemicals to quicken fat storage, and plump up cells.

Interestingly, the latest studies suggest that coffee ranks high in antioxidants. Japanese researchers in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute have even reported, “people who drank coffee daily had half the liver cancer of those who never drank it and that the protective effect occurred in people who drank one to two cups per day and increased at three to four cups”. But what these studies have neglected to report is the negative affects on the nervous system. So I guess the debate lives on.

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            Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition

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