Written by Engr Muhammad Shahzaib Iqbal
Most people start their day with a cup of coffee. Many people would also finish their daily work with coffee. As such, coffee drinking is an important part of modern daily life. It has been told that coffee is a driving force for humans to develop science, because it has an alerting effect on the human brain. However, some people report experiencing irregular heartbeat or headaches and are thus reluctant to drink coffee, which suggests individual variation to coffee intolerance.
Coffee is not only one of the most important commodities in international trade but also the world’s second most popular drink, after water. Coffee has been described as “the intellectual fuel of the contemporary world” 1 and the human brain has been defined as “a machine for converting coffee into mathematical theorems.” 2 People have been drinking coffee for the last thousand years and throughout its history all sorts of theories have been advanced on its possible effects. Only in the last 10 to 15 years, however, have any rigorous scientific conclusions been reached.
As Professor Martin indicated at the Cartagena Seminar, many of the world’s doctors were educated in the belief that coffee is harmful to health. Several scientific studies now indicate that moderate consumption of coffee (between five and six cups a day) not only poses no risks for a normally healthy person but also has important benefits. The Centre of Scientific Information on Coffee (COSIC), based in Oxford, England, has identified several positive effects backed by solid scientific evidence:
- Coffee increases the level of alertness, improves short-term memory and permits better use of the prefrontal cerebral cortex.
- Coffee has antioxidant and antitoxic properties at cellular level.
- Coffee reduces the risk of hepatic cirrhosis and prevents the formation of gallstones.
- Coffee provides protection against degenerative brain diseases like Alzeimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Coffee provides protection against colon and skin cancers
- Coffee combats caries and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Coffee has a moderate slimming effect and improves performance in sports.
- Coffee helps to alleviate asthma symptoms and helps to calm hyperactive children.
Coffee is better known for all its positive effects in the prevention of colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease and the formation of gallstones. Its negative effects are also known: the possibility of arrhythmic heartbeats among heavy consumers, or its effects among Scandinavians who customarily boil their coffee.
We have always drunk it for the wonderful taste and the way it brightens our outlook. It is now clear from research into the physiological effect of compounds found in coffee that it helps us to live better and longer. Thus we must finally leave it to the medical profession to prescribe coffee to patients suffering from those diseases that it helps control or prevent, allowing them the pleasure of a good cup, while enjoying the medicinal benefits of this unique natural product.