I recently read an article in the newspaper on a study by the University of Palermo, stating that because of its caffeine content, espresso can be bad for the heart. Right next door to this, another article quoted a study declaring that chocolate was good for us as it helps prevent a stroke. So, if I believe what I’ve read then coffee is bad and chocolate is good.
But isn’t this a bit contradictory? Coffee and chocolate both contain caffeine. And if caffeine slows blood flow, while at the same time increasing blood pressure, chocolate shouldn’t really be recommended to prevent strokes.
It seems odd to me, that whenever there’s a study into caffeine (good or bad), it’s always related back to coffee, even if the amount of caffeine involved would mean drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee.
Caffeine is only one of hundreds of compounds found in coffee. Caffeine is also found in: tea, chocolate, energy drinks, many soft drinks, medicines and cosmetics. So why is it that only coffee gets lumbered with caffeine?
The big debate, is whether caffeine (and unfortunately this will always include coffee) is any good for us. Caffeine is a natural substance produced by the coffee plant. Studies have so far found that the plant uses it in two ways: a) to deter its leaves and cherries being eaten by insects; and b) to get bees buzzing (excuse the pun) during pollination. So caffeine acts as a poison to some creatures and a stimulant to others.
The amount of caffeine in coffee varies widely due to many factors: the origin and varietal of the beans; whether the beans are wet or dry processed; how the beans are roasted and finally how the coffee is brewed. Guides to caffeine content in coffee should be taken with a pinch of salt, as practically every cup is different.
So how much coffee should we drink?
Everybody has their own level of sensitivity to caffeine. So while some of us can drink multiple cups of coffee a day without feeling any effect, others will feel the effect after just one cup. But luckily our bodies are fairly intelligent and quickly tell us when enough is enough. So if you’re ever worried about your caffeine intake just listen to your body. Is it really the taste of coffee you want or just a break from your desk?
Something to look out for in the future is caffeine free, as apposed to decaffeinated, coffee. Coffee plants have recently been discovered growing in the wild which are naturally caffeine free. It should only be a matter of years before one or more of these are commercially propagated.