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Coffee - healthy or harmful?

Over the last 20 to 30 years, the popularity of coffee across the nation has grown exponentially, even to the point where it now outstrips the UK’s traditionally most popular hot beverage, tea, by quite a margin. In fact, the UK consumes over 70 million cups of coffee per day, but many question just how beneficial coffee is for us.

Since coffee chains opened back in the 1990's (think Starbucks), the amount of coffee consumed has significantly risen, along with the so-called ‘cool’ factor associated with drinking it. Artisan coffee shops are now an on-trend place to relax, whilst the range of coffees available in the market has grown rapidly, to include iced, cold brew, and all manner of variations of flavours depending on the season. With all these variations, the increased stress of our working lives, and the fact that coffee seems to be the on-trend work-place drink, it is easy to consume huge volumes of it during the day. Medical professionals recommend sticking to a limit of 400mg of caffeine per day, or 4-5 cups of coffee due to the effects caffeine can have on our bodies.

Although this amount of caffeine is safe to drink, it also increases the concentration of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body. Cortisol stays in the body for over an hour, and if regularly topped up over time can cause long-term stress-related illnesses, anxiety, and loss of sleep. Many coffees available on the high street, particularly iced or flavoured versions, contain vast quantities of sugar in them, many as much as a can of Cola. This can lead to spikes in insulin and dopamine causing you to crave more sugar and consequently suffer from side-effects such as weight gain and mood swings.

In a recent study by CBRE and the University of Twente, they found a way to curb coffee drinking was to provide people with incentivised alternatives such as fruit accented water. Simply a water pitcher with ice, strawberries, cucumber, or mint in it to promote a healthier choice – which is also viewed as a treat. As a consequence of the study where other beverages were made as readily available as coffee – the participants in the study found their coffee consumption dropped by 47%.

Now there are also health benefits to coffee, not to mention the fact that it is seemingly essential at 9 am on a Monday morning. However cutting down somewhat and not exceeding the recommended caffeine intake is something to be aware of next time you reach for that cup.