Is caffeine good for you?
Recently the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board met to discuss the latest research on coffee and tea. What’s good for you? What’s not? The Board established recommendations.
In addition to the physicians and faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center, members of the board include James Barnard, PhD, UCLA School of Physiological Science; Robert Vogel, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine; William McCarthy, PhD, UCLA School of Public Health; Tom Rifai, MD, Medical Director of Metabolic Nutrition & Weight Management at St Joseph Mercy in Michigan; and Stephen Inkeles, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Below are the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board’s conclusions.
Pritikin Program guidelines for caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea
The scientific evidence suggests the following:
- Coffee has some health benefits. New research indicates that coffee drinkers may be less likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm disturbances. Coffee consumption has also been linked to decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. Coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated, does contain ingredients that may raise LDL cholesterol, but brewing coffee with paper filters tends to reduce this cholesterol-raising effect.
- Black tea and green tea, caffeinated as well as decaffeinated, contain ingredients that have many health benefits, such as reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and gum disease.
- Caffeine itself has no nutritional value and for most people is mildly addictive. For some, chronic use has side effects such as restlessness, insomnia, and panic attacks. Caffeine may also stimulate the production of stomach acids; increase eye pressure (it is therefore discouraged for those with glaucoma); and interact with a variety of medications (for example, caffeine amplifies the effect of some asthma medications).
Pritikin Program Guidelines
If you choose to drink caffeinated beverages, we recommend green and/or black tea over coffee because of tea’s many health benefits.
If you prefer coffee, do consider your own personal health history, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have problems that are linked to or exacerbated with coffee consumption, such as gastrointestinal issues like GERD, panic attacks, sleep troubles, or glaucoma?
- Does drinking coffee trigger the desire for behaviors (like cigarette smoking) that I’m trying to avoid?
- Is coffee such a profound part of my life that it’s getting in the way of healthy habits? For example: Am I “living” on coffee to the point where I’m not eating food, including healthy foods like fruits and vegetables?
- Am I living off the “high” from coffee rather than the much healthier “high” from daily exercise?
- Am I depriving myself of healthful restorative sleep because of all the coffee I’m drinking?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, we recommend that you cut down on your coffee consumption, or avoid coffee altogether.
If none of the above applies to you, and if you enjoy coffee, by all means keep enjoying it. Remember to:
- Brew your coffee through a paper filter.
- Drink it black or flavored with nonfat milk, soymilk, and/or a zero-calorie sweetener like Splenda With Fiber