‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Coffee: For Better or For Worse?

Whether you're Barack Obama or the guy donning the Micky Mouse costume at Disney World, a cup of Joe seems to unite us all (unless you're my husband, who can't stand the stuff). The health benefits of coffee have long been studied, touted and contended... So here's an article to make sense of this beloved bean and black beverage.

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It is a complex beast containing over 1,000 biologically active compounds including polyphenols, diterpenes, trigonelline and, everybody's favourite: Caffeine.

This potent central nervous system stimulant, caffeine, is consumed predominantly in the diet from coffee (85% in fact). Tea contributes 10%, soda about 5%, and 1% from "other" sources like chocolate...Mmmm, chocolate.

For better or for worse, here's the simplified scientific lowdown on how society's "lifeblood", AKA coffee, impacts our health:
  • Skin cancer:
    • One study found caffeinated coffee (4 or more cups/day) decreased the risk of melanoma
    • Working theory is that some component of coffee is DNA-protective and anti-inflammatory 
    • Another study found no link between coffee and melanoma, but saw caffeinated coffee and total coffee consumption associated with lower basal cell carcinoma risk
  • Endometrial cancer (lining of the uterus):
    • A study showed coffee intake (and several foods) were inversely associated with this kind of cancer, though the mechanism is not yet known
    • A 2011 study showed 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee lowered the risk of endometrial cancer by 25% compared to low coffee drinkers
    • For decaf coffee, 2 cups/day decreased endometrial cancer risk compared to <1 cup/day
  • Breast cancer:
    • One study showed high intake of caffeinated coffee may decrease breast cancer in post-menopausal women (association not seen with decaf)
    • Another found caffeinated beverages in general have this effect
  • Other cancers:
    • Pancreatic cancer risk didn't appear affected by tea or coffee (regular or decaf)
    • Total coffee, caffeinated, decaf and tea consumption were not associated with overall gastric cancer risk, BUT an association was found between caffeinated/total coffee consumption and risk of gastric cardia cancer (cancer in the upper stomach)
  • Diabetes:
    • One study found people who drank 4-7 cups coffee/day had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to <2 cups/day
    • Decaf coffee had a stronger effect on diabetes risk
    • More research needed regarding the specific effects of coffee on insulin sensitivity
    • Another study found as consumption of  both decaf and regular coffee increased, diabetes risk decreased
  • Blood pressure/Heart disease:
    • Coffee and caffeine acutely elevate blood pressure (a strong risk factor for heart disease)
    • A meta-analysis showed 4 cups of coffee, compared to 0 cups, decreased risk of heart failure by 11%, but the risk began to increase when more than 4 cups were consumed
    • Moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups) was associated with a lower prevalence of atherosclerosis (narrow or "clogged" arteries)
Pheeeew! It's no wonder we're confused as to whether the evil bean is truly evil.
What we can infer from these fistful of findings is that morning mud does, without a doubt, have health benefits. No one's putting these into government guidelines yet because there is still much to learn.

For instance, depending on your DNA and your body's inner chemistry, some people process coffee and caffeine differently to others. 'Nutrigenomics' explores how people process foods (or rather, compounds in foods) differently based on their DNA.

What we do know:
  • Coffee has health benefits
  • Moderate amounts of coffee seem to provide the greatest health benefits
  • Many people like drinking coffee 
What we don't know:
  • What exact dose of coffee/caffeine is optimal for health
  • What compounds within coffee effect certain diseases
  • The impact genes have on caffeine/compounds found in coffee and how that impacts health and disease
If you can live with stinky coffee breath, go ahead...Make your body's day, flick that coffee bean.


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