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Is instant coffee healthy?

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Should we be worried about the type of coffee we drink, the amounts and the timings of when we are drinking it?

These days everyone is looking to improve the quality of the things they are putting into their body, it's probably why you are reading this and (maybe) buying our top quality meat, and we are no different. Quality is everything!

The first reported use of coffee comes from the Kaffa region of Ethiopia in 850 AD. Since then coffee consumption has spread across the world. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind oil, and therefore everyone is punting for your business and your hard earned £'s. Massive coffee companies like Starbucks, as well as little boutique shops are desperate for you to spend your money.

So what are you drinking? A jar of instant? Is it organic? Fairtrade? Freeze dried? Bog standard Nescafe? Does it matter? Do you care?

Or are you a barista who prides themselves in creating an amazing cup of freshly ground coffee with your fancy pants space age coffee machine? I have to say having the option of making a really good cup of coffee at the office or at home can make your day! But are the coffee beans good quality? How have they been treated? Have the farmers been exploited so you can drink the coffee at a reasonable price?

Whether you are an instant coffee drinker or fresh, the benefits of drinking coffee seem to far outweigh the negatives....

All Coffee Types Can Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease:

Heart disease is a term that describes an array of health problems that affect the heart. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the no. 1 cause of death in the U.S.A. Lifestyle decisions, such as a person's diet and frequency of exercise are key factors that affect the likelihood of developing heart disease. People who drink coffee as a regular part of their diet may have a lower chance of developing heart disease because of it.

Stimulant and Cognitive Effects:

Other substances in coffee, independent of caffeine, stimulate the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two hormones which have stimulant effects. A study carried out by J. Corley at the University of Edinburgh investigated the association between caffeine consumption and cognitive decline in later life. The study involved 923 participants and cognitive function at age 70 was assessed and data about current caffeine consumption was collected. A significant positive association was found between drinking coffee and performance on the National Adult Reading Test and the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (two standardised tests they used for this sort of thing).

Liver Protection:

Drinking coffee can reduce the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver, according to A.L. Klatsky from the Department of Medicine, California. The researchers concluded this after a study of 125,580 multi-ethnic subjects, where it was found that among persons drinking 4 or more cups of coffee per day, the incidence of alcoholic cirrhosis was 80 percent less compared to persons drinking no coffee. Protective effects were also evident in persons drinking just 1 cup of coffee per day. These subjects had a 30 percent decrease in alcoholic cirrhosis risk compared to subjects drinking no coffee.

Coffee and Cancer:

While some studies suggest that there is a relationship between coffee (whether it's instant or regular) and some kinds of cancer, it is not a causal one. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that there is little evidence to show that any kind of coffee causes or increases the risk of developing cancer. A review of the epidemiological studies of the coffee and cancer relationship, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2000 suggests that there is an inverse relationship between coffee and colorectal cancer, meaning coffee may actually help prevent cancer.

Other Positive Health Effects:

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type-2 diabetes than non-coffee drinkers. Instant coffee is also a source of some nutrients, such as chromium, magnesium and other nutrients. A cup of instant coffee, for example, has about 72 mg of potassium and 57 micrograms of boron. Preliminary studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption (400 mg of caffeine per day) is associated with lower rates of type-2 diabetes, according to a 2009 review published in "Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome." A serving of regular instant coffee also contains nearly 7 mg of magnesium, and magnesium plays a role in blood sugar management. This magnesium content may be a factor in preventing insulin resistance.

Other Considerations:

While drinking instant coffee may correlate with a lower likelihood of dying from heart disease this does not necessarily mean there is a causal relationship. Those who drink a lot of instant coffee, for example, may be more active than those who do not. There is also some evidence to show that heart disease risks are genetically affected. A 2006 study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," for example revealed that people with a specific gene mutation had a higher risk of developing heart disease, because the mutation affects how a person's body processes caffeine.

Warning for any pregnant ladies......

Caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches the foetus, which metabolizes it much more slowly than an adult. Pregnant women should limit caffeine to a low level such as one cup a day, the Harvard School of Public Health advises.

And a general warning….

If you experience tremors, difficulty sleeping, increased tension or anxiety, decrease your intake of instant coffee and other sources of caffeine. Caffeine can affect medications. Consult your doctor about your caffeine intake. We are definitely not Doctors and this isn’t something to be messed with.

And finally…Pro’s and Con’s of drinking instant Coffee:

Pro....... It's usually cheaper than ground or bean coffee, and it's quicker and easier to prepare.

Instant coffee was first invented in 1937, according to Nestle. Manufacturers use hot water to make a coffee extract from ground roasted coffee beans and then spray the extract into hot air in a tall tank causes it to dry rapidly. The other common method involves freeze-drying coffee extract to make instant coffee. Spray-drying, also called air drying, results in instant coffee powder. In the freeze-drying process, cutting the coffee crystals results in granules. Instant coffee has a very long shelf life when compared to roasted or ground coffee, and comes in caffeinated and decaffeinated versions.

Pro.......Instant Coffee Has Less Detrimental Effects on Cholesterol:

Instant coffee has less cafestol than coffee made in a French press for example and Cafestol is a substance that can elevate cholesterol. Both instant coffee and filtered coffee prepared in an automatic coffeemaker contain very small amounts of cafestol. If you already have high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, instant coffee is a better choice.

Pro.......Instant Coffee Improves Your Heart Health:

Some scientific evidence exists to show that people who drink instant coffee have a lesser chance of developing heart disease than those that do not. A 2008 study published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" found that people who drank several cups of coffee per day were less likely to die of heart disease than others. The study followed 129,000 people over 20 years and determined that those who drank four or more cups a day were significantly less likely to die from heart disease.

Pro......Instant Coffee May Well Have Decreased Negative Effects On Heart Disease Compared To Brewed or Filtered:

Instant coffee may have a different effect on heart health than non-instant coffee. According to a study published in the "Journal of Epidemiology” which surveyed 10,000 men and women and compared the rates of heart disease to those who drank five or more cups of instant coffee per day. Those who drank five or more cups of coffee had lower heart disease rates than those who did not. This study contradicted earlier studies that found an elevated risk of heart disease for coffee drinkers, but those studies centred on people who drank filtered or boiled coffee.

Con.......Hallucinations with Instant Coffee

A preliminary 2009 study by a Durham University team showed that people who drink seven cups or more of instant coffee a day are at a high risk of suffering hallucinations. This could be because caffeine increases the production of cortisone, a stress hormone. The study is not conclusive, and researchers plan to continue the study over several years to see how results stand the test of time.

Con........Toxic Compounds Are Much Higher In Instant Coffee

Instant coffee is high in acrylamide, a chemical compound that has been shown to cause cancer in animals. According to the Food and Drug Administration, acrylamide can also cause nerve damage. Acrylamide happens naturally in certain foods during high-temperature heating. Because the presence of acrylamide in food wasn't discovered until 2002, scientists still don't know the full extent of its dangers. The amount of acrylamide is measured in ppb, or parts-per-billion. Certain brands and types of instant coffee have very high amounts, compared with ground coffee. Nescafe Classic Instant Coffee has 471 ppb according to the FDA. In comparison, Classic Roast brewed coffee has only 13 ppb. There are now a few better options of instant coffee so check this out when buying.

Con......Lower Antioxidant Properties

Coffee is rich in antioxidant compounds, which help protect the body against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radical damage has been implicated in a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and aging. According to W.W. Huber and W. Parzefall at the Medical University of Vienna coffee contains the compound methylpyridinium, which has anti-cancer properties and isn't found in any other food source. Methylpyridinium isn't found in the raw coffee beans but is formed during the roasting process from trigonelline. Instant coffee has less of this....

Con.......Caffeine Content lower in Instant Coffee

If you are drinking coffee then you are looking for that caffeine hit, so you may as well get a good kick right? Instant coffee is lower in caffeine than brewed coffee. Instant coffee contains an average of 93 mg of caffeine in a prepared 8 oz. serving. An 8 oz serving of regular brewed coffee contains an average of 133 mg of caffeine, going up to 200 mg. The type of coffee beans and brewing methods affect the caffeine content in coffee.
So there you have it. Much to consider next time you are looking for that perfect cup of coffee.

References:

• Harvard School of Public Health; Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health; Dr. Rob van Dam; 2011
• FDA; Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products; July 2006
• BBC News: Is Coffee Bad for You?
• BBC News: 'Visions Link' to Coffee Intake
• FDA: Acrylamide Questions and Answers
• Live Science; Caffeine Can Cause Hallucinations; January 2009
• New Scientist; Guzzling Coffee May Cut Heart Disease; Ewen Callaway; June, 2008
• The Independent; Instant Coffee May Protect Against Heart Disease; June 1993
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: February is American Heart Month
• New Scientist; Genes Decide if Coffee Hurts of Helps Your Heart; Roxanne Khamsi; March, 2006,
• "Psychosomatic Medicine"; Caffeine Consumption and Cognitive Function at Age 70: The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 Study; Corley J., et al; February 2010
• "Methods in Enzymology"; Modification of N-acetyltransferases and Glutathione S-transferases by Coffee Components: Possible Relevance for Cancer Risk; Huber W.W. and Parzefall W.; August 2005
• "Archives of Internal Medicine"; Coffee, Cirrhosis, and Transaminase Enzymes; Klatsky Al, et al; June 2006
• United States Department of Agriculture: Ag History of Coffee
• United States Department of Agriculture: Coffee - A Functional Food With Health Benefits
• Healthfinder.gov: Coffee's Jolt Just an Illusion?; Jenifer Goodwin
• PubMed.gov: Coffee and Cacner: a Review of Epidemiological Studies, 1990-1999.
• Nestle: History of Instant Coffee
• Coffee and Health: Instant Coffee
• Center for Science in the Public Interest; Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs; 2007
• Harvard School of Public Health; Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health; Dr. Rob van Dam
• "Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome"; Does Long-Term Coffee Intake Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Risk?; Gustavo D. Pimentel, et al.; 2009

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