Australians love their coffee breaks and now new research is revealing that they may indeed be doing their health a big favour.
Antioxidants fight cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body produced during daily life such as in stressful situations and via pollution. Antioxidants trap free radicals and therefore prevent a number of early steps involved in lifestyle diseases. When blood lipids like cholesterol are not oxidized this lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. When DNA damage is prevented by free radicals, the risk of certain cancers is reduced. Antioxidants are also important for anti-aging and can have an anti-inflammatory action. Antioxidants are high in fruits and vegetables but also in pleasurable foods like red wine (grapes) and chocolate (cocoa).
New research is showing that coffee is a valuable source of disease-fighting antioxidants. In fact, it is the number one source in the American diet and provides more antioxidants than fruit due to frequency of consumption and the antioxidant content per serve. Epidemiological studies have found that coffee is associated with a reduction in glutamyl transpeptidase, a suggested biomarker for early oxidative stress. Great news for decaf lovers is that it appears to have similar antioxidant activity. Plus the addition of milk does not appear to affect the antioxidants in coffee. Surprisingly, research suggests that coffee is more powerful in scavenging peroxyl radicals than tea and is in fact endowed with a natural antioxidant capacity around 5-8 times higher than that of tea.
Regular consumption of coffee is associated with reduced risk of lifestyle diseases particularly type 2 diabetes. With 28% lower risk of type 2 diabetes seen in those who consumed between 4-6 cups per day. Regular coffee consumption may play a role in a healthy weight as caffeine raises metabolism and has also been reported to stimulate fat utilisation in muscle tissue during exercise. There is also evidence that regular coffee consumption can lower the risk of Parkinson disease in men along with liver disease.
There is no set recommendation however research would suggest that 3-4 cups per day providing 300-400 mg/day of caffeine is a good general guide. Of course, pregnant and breastfeeding women, adolescents and children should limit their intake of caffeine.