Coffee is healthy, depending on who you are

Many students drink countless cups of coffee, but they should pay more attention to coffee’s effect on their health. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

College students love their coffee, myself included. I’m always racing for my black coffee with caramel drizzle before engaging with any tasks or people. But is coffee healthy?

Some claim that coffee can cause cancer and heart disease. According to Donald Hensrud, M.D., however, it can protect against Parkinson’s disease, type two diabetes and liver disease. Simply, coffee is healthy, but the answer is actually much more complex and takes into consideration personalized medicine (or the medicine tailored to the individual). 

Coffee is a factor in studies with results that improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression. Also, recent studies by Dr. Hensrud have generally found no connection between coffee and an increased risk of heart disease or cancer, unlike prior research stating otherwise.

Caffeine’s role

The premises for arguing that coffee has negative long-term effects on the human body is that the beverage contains the drug caffeine. It is the most consumed drug in the world. 

Caffeine may cause irregular heartbeat, anxiety and difficulty sleeping if taken over the amount the body can handle. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, it all rests on the specific size of the person, weight of the person, health and amount of caffeine consumed, which is where personalized medicine takes a role.  

The claims that coffee is not good for you fail to consider confounding variables such as history of illnesses, genetic predisposition and other environmental pressures that may play a larger role in the individual’s life than the cup of coffee or two they have in the morning in causing unfavorable outcomes.

Personalized medicine

Personalized medicine means offering medical advice and treatment for a specific individual, especially drug response and effects. Personalized medicine, although a relatively new phenomenon, has been able to test a drug’s effect on cultured clones of a patient’s own cells. This methodology in medicine can also test the effects of coffee on each individual.

Based on personal judgement and ability of body, coffee’s good side effects outweigh the bad. Drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, stroke and cognitive issues like depression because coffee is rich in powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that help stop or limit damage caused by free radicals, which are harmful to the body and related to numerous diseases. 

Drink in moderation

Coffee does have health risks, however. It has been linked to raising cholesterol levels, especially unfiltered coffee. And people with a common genetic mutation that slowly breaks down caffeine are not recommended to drink more than two cups of coffee a day, as it increases the risk of heart disease.  In other words, your health risk affected by coffee depends on how fast you can metabolize caffeine. 

Perhaps the visit to the family doctor can include running tests to measure the best amount of coffee intake for you with personalized medicine.

Earlier studies claiming that coffee is not healthy may not have accounted for outside influences in the results, which led to their conclusion that coffee is not healthy. In other words, coffee drinkers can also smoke, drink and be inactive, which are all behaviors that raise the risk of many chronic diseases. But coffee should not take the blame for heart illness when other factors are involved.

Coffee is healthy in the right amount: no more than four cups a day for an average adult. It is important, however, to consult with your doctor to check the right amount of caffeine for you.

Opinion Editor Maryam Baldawi is a biology senior and can be reached at [email protected].

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