Detox With Coffee?
Yes. Really! This aromatic bean has gotten a pretty bad rap – one it doesn’t deserve. It’s actually good for us when taken in moderation.
When last month’s issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition arrived in my box, I was happy to see a report within it that provided a little more corroborating evidence about the health effects of coffee drinking. An 8-year prospective study was carried out in Germany of more than 42,000 participants to look at the effects of coffee drinking on “overall chronic disease.” The researchers wanted to look at the big picture to balance any positive or negative effect of coffee on separate diseases. They also looked specifically at whether or not coffee drinkers are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Their results? There’s no link between coffee drinking (either caffeinated or decaffeinated) and overall risk for chronic disease. When the authors looked for links to individual diseases, they found no link at all to cancer or heart attacks. And, according to their data, coffee may actually have a protective effect against the development of diabetes.
That coffee may help to protect against insulin insensitivity and the subsequent development of type 2 diabetes makes sense. It contains phenolic compounds, quinidines, and trigonelline, natural chemicals which have been found to improve insulin sensitivity. In fact, six previous studies from the US, Europe, and Japan have shown the same tendency for coffee drinkers to be less likely to develop diabetes, suggesting that its consumption may be protective.
What does that have to do with detox? Sugar toxicity is a major health burden in developed countries today. We eat too much of it, put on too much weight because of it, and subsequently are developing type 2 diabetes in epidemic proportions because of it. While the best course of action is to cut out all refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup from the diet, if giving up every last ounce of sweet pleasure isn’t in the cards for you, then at least drinking a cup of coffee can help the body to process that sugar a little more effectively so that diabetes doesn’t eventually develop. A recent trial showed that coffee appears to affect the liver and fat cells in positive ways that help to break the downward spiral into diabetes.
More to the direct point of toxicity, coffee also contains diterpenes that have cancer fighting properties and phenolic compounds that have antioxidant activity. These natural chemicals help the body to fight off toxins that may otherwise lead to tumor formation. In fact, there is evidence that coffee reduces the risk of several different types of cancers, and a recent meta-analysis of 59 studies found a 3% reduction in overall cancer risk with a cup of coffee per day. The present study didn’t show a protective effect against cancer, but it didn’t show a promotional one either. Given the other evidence, it’s likely that the time frame wasn’t long enough and the participants numbers high enough to tease out statistical significance. The meta-analysis researchers, for instance, pooled data from over 2 million people to see their results.
Cancers of our primary detoxers, the liver and kidneys, have been increasing in recent years. Coffee intake in moderation has a fairly consistent record of mitigating that increased risk. Pancreatic cancer, too, is on the rise, and it’s one of the individual cancer types shown to be inversely correlated with coffee drinking.
Coffee helps the body to detox. The trick is moderation and avoiding addiction. And, of course, one must also look at what’s right for each person as an individual. Some things, like insomnia, anxiety, GERD, and cardiac arrhythmias, are worsened by coffee.
For more on the health effects of coffee drinking from the Yoga perspective, see a previous post here.
- Esther Lopez-Garcia. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic diseases: changing our views. Am J Clin Nutr 2012 95: 4 787-788.
- Anna Floegel et al. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic disease in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)–Germany study Am J Clin Nutr 2012 95: 4 901-908.
- Yu X et al. Bao Z. Coffee consumption and risk of cancers: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. BMC Cancer 2011;11:96.