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10 Myths About Coffee

More than four of five American adults drink it, and everyone has a favorite brew, preparation method, and routine. Coffee has become a social beverage, status symbol, and energy-boosting elixir used to get our mornings started and to get us through those long work days (1-3).

But as popular as coffee is, when it comes to its impact on health, some still view it as a controversial beverage. So is drinking coffee an unhealthy habit that should be banished, or has coffee gotten an unfair rap over the last few decades?

Let the Isagenix Research and Science team help you separate coffee fact from fiction by debunking the top ten myths surrounding America’s latest obsession.

10 Myths About Coffee

1. Coffee on Cleanse Days stops the cleansing process

This one has been passed around Isagenix circles for years. But ongoing research on “intermittent fasting,” the scientific name for Cleanse Days, has revealed that calories are what actually interfere with “cleansing.” Too many calories and you won’t reap all the benefits of your Cleanse Day. Because coffee by itself is virtually calorie-free, enjoying a cup of high quality premium coffee and without loads of calorie-rich cream and sugar will do nothing to hurt your Cleanse Day. In fact, a cup of high quality premium coffee may really be a good thing. Recent studies reveal that coffee actually benefits the liver—the main detoxifying organ in the body (4).

2. Coffee will dehydrate you

Because caffeine may have a slight diuretic effect, forcing water out of the body, many take this coffee myth as fact. But in reality, studies have shown that coffee is about as good as water for hydrating the body (2, 3). The main ingredient in coffee is water, which easily outweighs any diuretic effect that caffeine may have. In addition, with regular coffee consumption, the body adjusts to compensate for the diuretic effect of caffeine, further diminishing any dehydrating effect (2).

3. Coffee halts weight loss

Those that rely on coffee as a pick-me-up will be happy to hear that if anything, coffee consumed black will help with weight loss. Studies show that caffeine in coffee can provide a small fat-burning effect, boosting metabolism and reducing calorie intake during the hours after drinking it (5, 6). But there is one caveat—To fully realize the fat busting benefits of coffee, you must avoid adding too many calories in the form of heavy cream and sugar. When it comes to weight loss, calories are still king. So as long as you account for extra calories, drinking coffee can be a healthy way to support weight loss goals.

4. Coffee causes cancer and is bad for your heart

This widespread myth is derived from flawed studies showing an association between coffee drinking and increased rates of cancer and heart disease. More recently, these findings were refuted when it was discovered that researchers failed to account for smoking and other unhealthy habits tending to occur more in coffee drinkers. Current research actually shows that moderate coffee drinking may reduce the risk of developing cancer and heart disease due to the abundance of healthy antioxidant phytochemicals and compounds found in coffee (7, 8).

5. Coffee causes tooth decay

Like several other drinks, such as fruit juice and soda, coffee is slightly acidic, leading some people to believe that coffee will soften teeth and lead to tooth decay. In addition, some people add a ton of sugar to coffee and sip on it for hours, exposing teeth to sugar and acid chronically. But, ironically, studies have shown that compounds in coffee can protect against tooth decay by acting as antibacterial agents, preventing bacteria from adhering to the surface of teeth (9).

6. Coffee causes osteoporosis

Because coffee and caffeine consumption slightly decreases the absorption of calcium by about 4 – 6 mg per cup (10, 11), coffee has been blamed for causing osteoporosis. In a hypothetical world, this reduction in calcium would lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Fortunately, in the real world, adding one tablespoon of milk to each cup of coffee consumed would offset any calcium loss caused by the caffeine, preventing an effect on bone quality. By ensuring adequate calcium intake and drinking coffee in moderation, studies show that there will be no increased risk of fractures or osteoporosis (12, 13).

7. Coffee stunts growth

If you were denied coffee as a kid due to it’s supposed growth-stunting effects, feel free to be upset with your parents, because no study has ever found evidence to support this. Though it’s not exactly clear how this rumor got started, the slight impact of caffeine on calcium absorption (see myth 6) and its hypothetical effect on bone mass may be to blame. But a 1998 study clearly dispels this growth-stunting myth, showing no effect of caffeine on bone quality or growth of 81 teenagers tracked for six years (14). However, since growing kids may be more sensitive to caffeine than adults due to their smaller size, not to mention kids usually have bounds of energy, it’s understandable for those reasons that parents restrict kids’ coffee consumption.

8. Coffee causes electrolyte imbalances in athletes

Citing a diuretic effect that could lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss, coaches and trainers have long recommended that athletes refrain from caffeine use around exercise. But, contrary to popular belief, caffeine will not cause an electrolyte imbalance and, compared to water, has not been shown to increase urine output in athletes (15). Drinking coffee or caffeine around exercise can actually enhance exercise performance by increasing focus and reaction time.

9. Coffee causes insomnia

There is a bit of truth to this coffee myth, but only if you’re drinking coffee in the hours near bedtime. Though caffeine is an effective stimulant, it also leaves the body fairly quickly. It reaches its highest level in the blood about 1 to 1.5 hours after ingesting it, and it only takes 3 to 7 hours for half of this caffeine to be eliminated (16). For most people, drinking coffee before the midafternoon is unlikely to interfere with sleep. But if you’re more sensitive to caffeine, you might want to stick to an early morning routine.

10. Coffee offers no health benefits

For decades, coffee has battled a bad reputation. The widespread idea that coffee is bad for you originates from the savvy marketing of an 1800s era food manufacturer named C.W. Post, who vilified coffee in advertisements as a tactic to increase sales of his coffee alternative product. But the truth is that coffee offers a ton of amazing health benefits, including better long-term cell, brain, and liver health.

References

  1. National Coffee Drinking Trends 2010, National Coffee Association. Accessed February 17, 2015, http://www.ncausa.org/
  2. Maughan RJ1, Griffin J. Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2003 Dec;16(6):411-20.
  3. Killer SC et al. No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: a counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 9;9(1):e84154.
  4. Saab S et al. Impact of coffee on liver diseases: a systematic review. Liver Int. 2014 Apr;34(4):495-504. doi: 10.1111/liv.12304.
  5. Hursel R, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Thermogenic ingredients and body weight regulation. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Apr;34(4):659-69. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.299.
  6. Gavrieli A et al. Effect of different amounts of coffee on dietary intake and appetite of normal-weight and overweight/obese individuals. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jun;21(6):1127-32. doi: 10.1002/oby.20190.
  7. Bøhn SK et al. Coffee and cancer risk, epidemiological evidence, and molecular mechanisms. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 May;58(5):915-30. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201300526.
  8. Ding M et al. Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 2014 Feb 11;129(6):643-59. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.005925.
  9. Meckelburg N et al. Antibacterial effect of coffee: calcium concentration in a culture containing teeth/biofilm exposed to Coffea Canephora aqueous extract. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2014 Sep;59(3):342-7. doi: 10.1111/lam.12281.
  10. Barger-Lux MJ, Heaney RP. Caffeine and the calcium economy revisited. Osteoporos Int. 1995;5(2):97-102.
  11. Hasling C, Sondergaard K, Charles P, Mosekilde L. Calcium metabolism in postmenopausal osteoporotic women is determined by dietary calcium and coffee intake. J Nutr. 1992;122(5):1119-1126.
  12. Hallström H et al. Long-term coffee consumption in relation to fracture risk and bone mineral density in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Sep 15;178(6):898-909. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt062.
  13. Choi EJ et al. Coffee consumption and bone mineral density in korean premenopausal women.Korean J Fam Med. 2014 Jan;35(1):11-8. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2014.35.1.11.
  14. Lloyd T et al. Dietary caffeine intake is not correlated with adolescent bone gain. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Oct;17(5):454-7.
  15. Armstrong LE et al. Caffeine, body fluid-electrolyte balance, and exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002 Jun;12(2):189-206.
  16. Nawrot P et al. Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Jan;20(1):1-30.
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