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All About Coffee


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The bulk of the research suggests that coffee consumption is beneficial, but as always, whether it works for you depends on a whole bunch of different individual factors. Find out what considerations you should keep in mind.

Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

I can say I drink coffee for three reasons: One, because it’s delicious and I love the smell and the ritual of it. The whole preparation that I go through is a ritual, and I really believe in the importance of those kinds of rituals, and I think we lack them in our culture. Number two, coffee is associated with numerous health benefits in the scientific literature, and that may come as a surprise to some people listening. And number three, when I drink it, it doesn’t interfere with my sleep or HPA axis function.

In this episode, we cover:

2:00  What Chris ate today
6:52  The research on coffee
16:50  Coffee intake considerations

Links We Discuss

  • Prostate cancer: lower risk of prostate cancer, inverse association with advanced prostate cancer.
  • Breast cancer: caffeinated coffee intake may be associated with lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Liver cancer: habitual coffee drinking is associated with a significantly lower risk of liver cancer in Japanese population.
  • Other cancers (gastric, colorectal): varied results; but often complicated by higher rates of smoking in coffee drinkers.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver: 1-2 cups of coffee per day protects against cirrhosis.
  • Parkinson’s: higher coffee/caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s.
  • Weight management: coffee consumption reduces weight gain and improves blood sugar control.
  • Type 2 diabetes: increasing coffee consumption by 1.5 cups a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome: coffee consumption is negatively associated with metabolic syndrome.
  • Periodontitis: coffee consumption is inversely associated with severe periodontitis.
  • Inflammation: coffee consumption has beneficial effects on inflammation and HDL cholesterol.
  • Oxidative damage: coffee consumption is associated with lower oxidative damage of DNA, in part by decreasing body iron storage.
  • CVD and all-cause mortality: drinking coffee is a significant benefit, especially in women. Women who drank more than 3 cups per day had a 55% lower risk of death from CVD and 25% lower risk of death from all causes. Other studies found similar, though less dramatic results, ranging from 12-20%: http://1.usa.gov/1B1oNqS and http://1.usa.gov/1zJFT7D.
  • Depression: depression decreases with increasing caffeine consumption.

Steve Wright: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. You are listening to the Revolution Health Radio Show. I’m your host, Steve Wright, co-author at SCD Lifestyle. This episode of RHR is brought to you by 14Four.me. 14Four.me is Chris Kresser’s healthy lifestyle reset program. This is a program for you if you’re struggling with how to integrate food changes, sleep patterns, movement changes, and de-stressing your life. If you’ve been listening to the show for some time — I hope you have been — we’ve talked about all four of these areas and how important they are to your overall health and well-being and really the foundation of recovering from any chronic disease as well as staying optimally healthy over the long run. As Chris and I have both shared in previous podcasts, at times it can be a real struggle even for ourselves to integrate these at the same time, and so what Chris has done is created this 14-day reset program to kind of hold your hand and show you how to integrate these into your life so you won’t get overwhelmed and you won’t get set back. So check out 14Four.me. It’s something that could be really beneficial if you’re struggling here.

Chris, welcome to your radio show. You are an integrative health practitioner, healthy skeptic, and New York Times bestselling author. How’s it going, man?

Chris Kresser: It’s going well. How are you, Steve?

Steve Wright: I’m just so sleepy today, Chris.

Chris Kresser: You’re a little sleepy today. I think the topic will interest you for sure.

Steve Wright: I have had some of the topic for breakfast and lunch today.

Chris Kresser: Uh-huh. Well, we’ll talk about that too then, why you’re still sleepy after doing that. We’re keeping everyone in suspense right now!

What Chris Ate Today

Steve Wright: Well, before we get to our suspenseful question of the day, Chris, what did you eat today?

Chris Kresser: Let’s see… I just had lunch, and it was very simple. I’m getting ready to do my annual digital detox for 10 days. It’s a 10-day period with no interaction with technology, no interaction with work, just 100% time off, so it’s always a little hectic before that, just wrapping everything up and getting ready to do that, so I had a very simple salad with red butter lettuce and salmon, canned wild salmon from Vital Choice with the bones in — that’s my favorite canned salmon by far — some sauerkraut, and a little bit of white rice that was cooked in bone broth. Simple, but pretty good.

Steve Wright: Yeah.

Chris Kresser: And the dressing, I had some rice vinegar and olive oil, a little bit of toasted sesame oil, and then some fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

Steve Wright: Right on, man.

Chris Kresser: That was it.

Steve Wright: That sounds delicious. So shall we get into the question today, or do you have any announcements?

Chris Kresser: No, let’s do it. Let’s get into it. It’s a really good one. We might spend a little bit more time on this episode just because I think it’s something that interests a lot of people.

Steve Wright: Our first 4-hour podcast.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, right! Let’s give it a listen.

Question from Sheena: Hi, Chris. My name is Sheena, and I am just wondering why sometimes you start your day with coffee. It just seems to me, knowing all that you know about health and nutrition, that you would not do that. It seems like you’re saying, “I’m gonna start my day with a lion chasing me.” Just curious. I love everything you do except for the coffee in the morning because people do what you do and the old adage, “Do as I say not as I do,” does not apply. Thank you!

Chris Kresser: OK, so thank you, Sheena, for your question. I particularly like the part about it seems like I’m starting my day with a lion chasing me. That was definitely a good visual. This is a great question, and coffee, for so long, has been seen as a vice, I think, in general. It has been understood as something that’s not good for us, but we do it anyway because either we love it or we depend on it. You know, just to quickly answer your question, for those people who are busy and don’t want to bother listening to the rest of the podcast, I can say I drink coffee for three reasons: One, because it’s delicious and I love the smell and the ritual of it. The whole preparation that I go through is a ritual, and I really believe in the importance of those kinds of rituals, and I think we lack them in our culture. Number two, coffee is associated with numerous health benefits in the scientific literature, and that may come as a surprise to some people listening, and that’s what we’re going to spend a fair chunk of time talking about, and that’s something you might not be aware of, Sheena, that actually most of the published research, the bulk of it, suggests that coffee is actually beneficial. And number three, when I drink it, it doesn’t interfere with my sleep or HPA axis function. Now, there are some caveats there, and there are times when I know drinking coffee will interfere. Like, if I’m really run down or overworked or overstressed and I drink coffee, it will have that impact on me. So part of it is me just knowing my body and how I do with it, and we’re going to talk a little bit more about that later.

So that’s the Cliffs Notes version, and now we’re going to go on and do more.

Steve Wright: And the most important question, I think, Chris, is we all know that you’re a coffee connoisseur. What is your favorite bean, or what is your favorite sort of blend, or what’s the one thing you have to have?

Chris Kresser: Well, you know, we’re going to have to do a whole other show. I think we got a little off on this tangent on a previous show, talking about our methodology. I will say that I’m a fan of lighter roasts where you can really experience the flavor of the bean. I like to mix it up. There isn’t any particular single origin location that I necessarily prefer over another. I like variety and I like to mix it up, but at the end when we talk a little bit about what to look for in a coffee, we can maybe go into that, and then we can do a whole other show on coffee preparation because I think that would be fun.

Steve Wright: Yeah.

Chris Kresser: But let’s talk a little bit about the research because that’s what we’re all about here at Revolution Health Radio.

Steve Wright: And the fact that coffee’s delicious.

The Research on Coffee

Chris Kresser: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, if you even just spend a little bit of time in PubMed, you’ll find tons and tons of studies, a lot of them newer because this has been a relatively new area of interest in the research world. But let’s just go over some of the highlights here. A study found a lower risk of prostate cancer in people who drink more coffee with an inverse association with advanced prostate cancer, so there were much lower rates not only of prostate cancer overall, but particularly of advanced prostate cancer. There are studies on breast cancer. One showed that caffeinated coffee may be associated with lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. A study on liver cancer found habitual coffee drinking was associated with significantly lower risk of liver cancer in a Japanese population. By the way, we’ll put all of these study links in the show notes.

For other cancers, there are more varied results. There are some studies suggesting a positive association between gastric and colorectal cancer and coffee consumption while others suggest no association. But those studies, according to the authors, were often complicated by higher rates of smoking in coffee drinkers, which smoking is definitely associated with gastric cancer and colorectal cancer, so I don’t think we’re seeing a strong signal in terms of some of the few studies that have shown a positive association.

Cirrhosis of the liver. Studies have shown that one to two cups a day protects against liver cirrhosis. Parkinson’s disease: Higher coffee or caffeine intake is associated with significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s. Coffee consumption has been shown to reduce weight gain and improve blood sugar control. There are a few studies — several actually — showing that increasing coffee consumption significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. I found a few studies showing that coffee consumption is inversely associated with metabolic syndrome, which is a whole constellation of factors, including abdominal obesity, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, weight, waist-to-hip ratio, things like this, all which are characterized by disordered metabolism.

Periodontitis actually has been shown to be inversely associated with coffee consumption. And this one’s really interesting and probably explains many of the other ones that I just mentioned. There are a few studies now that show that coffee consumption has beneficial effects on inflammation. Virtually all of these chronic modern inflammatory diseases that we’re talking about are inflammatory conditions, so if coffee reduces inflammation, that would certainly go a ways to explaining why it has all these beneficial effects. Likewise, another study showed that coffee consumption was associated with lower oxidative damage of DNA and perhaps in part by decreasing body iron storage. Iron is a pro-oxidant that causes oxidative damage, and if iron levels are high or even high normal, you can see an increase in oxidative stress, and coffee appears to combat that.

Then we have studies on cardiovascular disease, the number-one killer worldwide, that show a significant benefit for both men and women and also for all-cause mortality, death from all causes. In one study, it was pretty phenomenal actually, especially in women. They found women who drank more than three cups of coffee per day had 55% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 25% lower risk of death from all causes. That’s dramatic. I mean, to put it in perspective, statins for people who have pre-existing heart disease only get you a couple percentage points lower risk on an absolute level. It’s not comparable because those are clinical trials, interventions where they prescribe statins and compare with placebo. These are epidemiological studies just looking at relative risk, but that’s a pretty dramatic difference.

And then lastly — and I say “lastly” not because there’s not a lot more research to talk about, but that’s where we’re going to stop! — depression has been shown to decrease with increasing caffeine consumption. Some people call caffeine the happy drug or coffee the happy drug, and it appears that at least some research supports that idea.

A couple caveats: Number one is most of these studies are observational in nature. They’re not, like, double-blind, placebo-controlled coffee intervention studies or coffee experiments. They’re epidemiological studies where they’re looking at different groups of people and breaking them up based on how much coffee or caffeine they consume and then watching what happens to them. Having said that, we can’t prove that coffee is causing these beneficial effects in these studies, but we can say that it’s not causing harm in these studies. We’re not seeing coffee associated with negative effects in all of these studies. We’re seeing it associated with positives. So we could speculate that either coffee does have beneficial effects — and I’m going to speculate on some mechanisms that could explain that in a second — or we could say that maybe people who drink more coffee do other things that are beneficial in terms of all these conditions that we mentioned. But either way, we’re saying that coffee, at least according to most of this research, is not causing harm. So there’s really little reason to avoid coffee from a research perspective. If you’re just looking at things from the perspective of how coffee affects health at a population level, not on an individual level — we’re going to talk about that shortly — but on a population level, coffee appears to be associated with benefit, if anything. That’s what the research says.

Now, in terms of mechanisms, it’s not entirely clear why coffee and caffeine have these benefits, but there are certainly several mechanisms that could explain the effect. Number one is its antioxidant effect. We know that a lot of modern disease, like I said, is characterized by inflammation and oxidative damage, so anything that has an antioxidant effect could very well help prevent and even reverse some modern diseases. Caffeine itself in coffee is an antioxidant, actually, but coffee also has polyphenols, which are compounds that have an antioxidant effect, and we know that coffee components can trigger antioxidant gene expression and even protect against gastrointestinal oxidative damage. And then there was the mechanism that I mentioned earlier as evidenced by one of the studies, which is that coffee appears to be anti-inflammatory. So if it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, those two things alone could entirely explain the benefits that coffee has because of the role of inflammation and oxidative damage in modern chronic disease.

Steve Wright: And at this point, Chris, is it safe to assume that because of the antioxidants that we can’t separate caffeine and coffee? For instance, if we compare taking a 100 mg tablet of straight caffeine versus a cup of 100 mg standardized coffee, that we’re specifically talking about sort of the added benefit of whatever caffeine might be doing plus the antioxidants and other compounds that are in coffee, which is actually a very complex… product.

Chris Kresser: Substance, yeah. Yeah, I think so. Like I said, caffeine does alone have antioxidant effects, but certainly caffeine alone does not explain the benefit that you get from drinking caffeinated coffee because, as you said, Steve, it’s a very complex substance and we know from the concept of food synergy that you can’t just isolate one compound from a food and expect to be able to understand the effect even of that compound because compounds when they appear together in foods often have synergistic relationships, and therefore, they can have effects within a whole food that we wouldn’t have when you isolate those compounds and feed them individually.

That’s a really crucial concept to understand. It’s one that I think modern nutritional research really needs to learn to get on the bandwagon with because there’s a lot of this kind of isolation that happens in trying to understand the effects of nutrients and compounds in foods, and we don’t eat those kinds of isolated nutrients. We’ve talked about this a lot on the show in the past with things like T. Colin Campbell’s research about casein. Rats that eat high levels of purified casein, which is a protein in dairy, have an increase in cancer, so he used that evidence to not only extend to the idea that all dairy products cause cancer, but all animal products cause cancer on the basis of just this one isolated protein that you would never, ever be able to eat just on its own. I think that’s important, and of course, then there are other caffeine-containing beverages, like black tea and green tea, which have antioxidants and a similar but different profile in terms of how they affect people.

Let’s talk a little bit more about other considerations when it comes to coffee intake and whether it’s healthy.

Steve Wright: Yeah, we have to come back to this lion chasing you.

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Coffee Intake Considerations

Chris Kresser: Right, exactly. And just the notion that I’m always trying to communicate, which is there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. When we ask the question, is a particular food good for you, it’s really the “you” part of that statement that needs to emphasized because even the healthiest food can be toxic or problematic for someone who’s allergic to it, and a beverage like coffee that when you look on the population level is beneficial still might be harmful for an individual based on a number of different factors.

One of those factors would be caffeine sensitivity. That varies from person to person, and it can vary even for the same person throughout their life or depending on what’s happening in their life. I mentioned myself. If I’m going through a period where I’ve been not taking care of myself as well and not sleeping as much as I should and working too much and all that sort of stuff, burning the candle at both ends, I become caffeine sensitive in a way that I’m not when I’m really doing everything I need to be doing to take care of myself, so even just within one person it can vary a lot. And there are sort of biochemical reasons for that that involve the HPA axis and response to stress, but there are also potentially genetic causes that affect how caffeine is processed in the liver that can determine caffeine sensitivity. So that’s one whole piece.

Another piece is, as I mentioned — and I think we did a whole show on this last year — your HPA axis, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, stress tolerance, levels of stress. That all has a huge impact in terms of whether coffee will be appropriate. If somebody is under a ton of stress and they’re really broken down and fatigued, coffee is probably a bad idea with the caffeine. If someone is relatively healthy and robust and they’re managing their stress and sleeping well and taking care of themselves, then they may be able to drink coffee during the day without any ill effects.

Then along the same lines we have health status. If you’re dealing with a chronic illness that’s really taxing your HPA axis and you’re really kind of beaten down from that experience, then drinking coffee, even though it has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, the stimulating properties of caffeinated coffee might be too much for somebody in that situation.

There are other factors we’re only just beginning to learn about. I mentioned genotype in terms of caffeine sensitivity, but there are also a few new studies suggesting that the antioxidant response that each of us has to coffee varies depending on our genotype. Some people might be particularly sensitive or sensitized to the benefits of coffee because of their genotype, whereas other people may not get as much of a benefit.

Of course, there’s the question of what you have in your coffee. If you’re drinking schwaggy nondairy creamer and sugar with every cup of coffee, then that’s obviously going to be not as good as if you’re just drinking coffee itself or maybe you’re having coffee with some cream if you tolerate it or some butter or MCT oil if you’re into that sort of thing. So what you have with it and how those things that you’re adding to it fit with your own particular individual tolerances makes a difference, too.

There are a couple more things that I want to talk about related to coffee, and those are mycotoxins and pesticides because we get a lot of questions about how big of an issue are mycotoxins, fungi and mold in coffee, and how big of an issue is pesticide, how important is it to buy organic coffee, for example.

Coffee is one of the most chemically treated crops. One estimate that I saw suggested the average acre of conventional coffee is sprayed by about 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers, so it’s, like I said, one of the more heavily treated conventional crops. But when you look at studies at least in the published literature, most of the ones that I could find showed that roasting the coffee did seem to degrade most of the pesticide residue, up to 85% or more, in fact, in a lot of the studies that I saw. Personally I want to do my best to minimize my exposure to pesticides, and also there’s another concern that doesn’t necessarily have to do with your own health and the consequences of pesticide in the coffee, but it’s the social consequence of coffee that is grown with pesticides and people that are exposed to the pesticides that are involved with harvesting and processing the coffee and the overall impacts of conventional agriculture versus organic agriculture. So whether or not it’s a significant issue in terms of the health impacts of pesticide residue in the roasted coffee, I personally choose organic coffees whenever I can. When I make coffee at home and I buy it, I buy organic coffee for that reason.

There is this whole question of decaf versus regular. As I’m sure a lot of listeners know, conventional decaffeinated coffee is processed with a lot of chemicals, and some of those chemicals are actually known to be carcinogenic, so if you do decaf, water-processed decaf is a better option. I know some people actually who drank decaf and had a reaction to it and they thought they were reacting to even the small amount of caffeine in decaf, but what they found that they were actually reacting to was the chemicals that are used to process the decaf, and they actually feel worse when they drink decaf coffee than they do when they drink caffeinated coffee, at least when it’s processed in a certain way. That’s something to be aware of.

And then the mycotoxin issue. For those of you who don’t know what mycotoxins are, they’re toxins that are produced by fungi and mold. They’re things like aflatoxin and ochratoxin and trichothecene, some examples. It is true that about 30% of coffees contain mycotoxins. The estimates vary depending on what studies you look at. Aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A are the main ones, and these are potentially serious toxins. Aflatoxin is no joke. It’s a serious liver toxin. Ochratoxin, less is known about its effects, but it appears to have significant impact on kidney function, cause inflammation, and also be carcinogenic. Roasting does destroy some of the mycotoxins but not to the extent that it seems to degrade the pesticide residue. Mechanical and wet-processed coffees have fewer mycotoxins. This is another interesting thing about decaf: Generally decaf coffees have more mycotoxins than caffeinated coffees because caffeine actually inhibits mycotoxin growth. So in addition to being an antioxidant, it actually inhibits mycotoxin growth. Actually it inhibits the growth of the mold, which produces the mycotoxins, to be more accurate. Instant, low quality, older, and less fresh coffee would have more mycotoxins than fresh, higher quality coffees.

But the thing to understand about these mycotoxins, which is just the same as with any other toxins that we ever talk about, is the dose is what makes the poison. Mycotoxins are found in a lot of foods — peanut butter, nuts, seeds, beer, wine, raisins, dried fruits, chocolate, grains, wheat products, things like that — and there are a lot of foods with higher mycotoxin counts than coffee. We want to minimize our exposure to these things as much as possible, and at the same time, we also know that coffee contains compounds that combat mycotoxins, like caffeine and kahweol and cafestol, and these appear to actually combat mycotoxins. And this is crucial because, again, we talked about this concept of food synergy. Going back to the T. Colin Campbell example where he found that casein fed in high doses to rats caused cancer, well, guess what? Whey, which is another protein in dairy, is anticarcinogenic, so if you’re consuming the whole dairy product instead of just an isolated protein from the dairy, it’s likely not to have any cancer-causing effect because of this food synergy, the way that these things work together. Coffee may have some amount of mycotoxins in it, at least in the case of 30% of coffee, but it also has a whole bunch of compounds that combat mycotoxins, and it has polyphenols and caffeine itself, which play an antioxidant role and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, both of which are major factors in cancer.

So if it was true that mycotoxins in coffee were a big deal and were causing really significant problems, then we would expect to see that showing up in the research on long-term coffee consumption, right? We’d expect to see an uptick in all kinds of different inflammatory diseases from cancer to cardiovascular disease to type 2 diabetes to periodontitis, and yet that’s not what we see at all. In fact, we see the opposite. This is, again, what I’m often coming back to, is looking at the real effects in humans over the long term with foods like this rather than focusing too much on one single mechanism because we you zero in too much on a single mechanism, you can really miss the forest for the trees. We lose sight of the concept of food synergy and considering the effects of a whole food rather than just a single component of the food. Like Steve said, coffee is a super complex food or substance, and its biochemical effects are just as complex, so it’s a really good idea to keep that in mind.

Steve Wright: It sounds like, Chris, you’re kind of always coming back to individuality, between the different genotypes and phenotypes and based on where your health status is. I know that when I was super sick, let alone the fact that my hormones were at a very fragile point, my gut was so irritated that drinking coffee would actually irritate my digestive tract when I drank it.

Chris Kresser: Yeah.

Steve Wright: Obviously I don’t have that anymore.

Chris Kresser: Right.

Steve Wright: So it definitely seems like you’re just going to have to keep testing and just keep trying, and I don’t think there’s any one law or anything like that other than it seems to be beneficial if you can tolerate it.

Chris Kresser: Yeah. If we were to summarize, we’d say the bulk of the research suggests that coffee consumption is beneficial at the population level, but as always, whether it works for you depends on a whole bunch of different individual factors that include caffeine sensitivity, HPA axis status, health status, stress, sleep, general lifestyle, your genetic haplotype, and lots of other stuff we didn’t really even have time to go into, but these are probably the main ones that are relevant for most people who are listening.

I would also say you should purchase the highest quality, freshest, ideally organic, wet-processed coffee that you can. And I would say that everyone should probably go a period of time, a significant chunk of time, 30 to 60 days without coffee and then add it back in to see how it affects you. I talked about this in my book, and the whole concept of a 30-day reset where you don’t have any coffee or alcohol is that a lot of people have been consuming these things for so long, and it’s very difficult to know how you respond to them when you’ve been consuming them for so long. It’s that dirty windshield effect or clean windshield effect, however you want to say it. If your windshield is dirty and you put a little speck of dirt on it, you’re not really going to notice the additional effect of that. But then when you do a 30-day reset, it’s like cleaning the windshield off completely. Then you have a glass of wine or you have a cup of coffee, and if it is affecting you negatively, you’re going to see that a lot more clearly because you’re starting from that clean windshield. That’s why I really suggest that everybody do that.

I’ve gone long periods in my life where I didn’t have any coffee at all, I’ve added it back in, I’ve experimented a lot with dosage, and still on a daily basis I have very high quality caffeinated organic coffee and organic water-processed decaf, and when I measure my coffee in the morning, the mix of caffeinated versus decaf changes almost every day depending on how I’m feeling. One day I might have, like, 6 grams of caffeinated and 12 grams of decaf. Another day I might have the flipside, 12 grams of caffeinated and 6 grams of decaf. I might have completely caffeinated one day or completely decaf another day. It just really depends on how I’m feeling and what going on for me. That’s a little harder to do when you’re ordering your coffee out, but if you make it at home, you can definitely go to that level of personalization if you need to.

Steve Wright: Yeah. I think those are some really great staples. Whenever we’re considering intaking a food that has potential downward effects… or I don’t even have to say it like that. For instance, if you’re going to eat chocolate, eat the highest quality chocolate you can get your hands on. If you’re going to eat beef, get the highest quality beef you can get your hands on. I don’t know why this blew my mind, but when I looked at the antioxidant totals for coffee versus, like, blueberries, I was just blown away. And then I compared them to, like, non-Dutch-processed chocolate, and I was just like, “Whoa.”

Chris Kresser: Yeah.

Steve Wright: You can be in Whole Foods or something and looking at some ORAC values or something and be blown away, like, “Oh, my God! Goji berries!”

Chris Kresser: Acai and all that stuff, yeah.

Steve Wright: And then you look at coffee and tea and chocolate, and you’re like, “Wow. This is a magnitude of 10 to 100 times a berry.”

Chris Kresser: Yeah.

Steve Wright: There’s something special about those substances.

Chris Kresser: Humble, old coffee. Yeah. It is pretty remarkable, some of the stuff that the research shows. I hope this answered your question, Sheena, and I hope it was interesting to everybody else that was listening. And I’m sure all of you coffee aficionados are probably feeling pretty good about your habit right about now! At least I hope you are! Provided it’s not interrupting your sleep and causing any other problems, keep doing it.

Steve Wright: Chris Kresser stamp of approval.

Chris Kresser: Got it.

Steve Wright: Thank you, everyone, for listening. If you’d like to get your question answered — as you saw by today’s question, if you throw a little attitude in it, it might get to the top of the list quicker! — go to ChrisKresser.com/PodcastQuestion to submit those. This podcast really is for you and generated by you, so we do need your input to keep this going. So thank you so much for listening.

Chris Kresser: All right, everyone. See you in a couple weeks. I’m walking my talk and going off the grid completely, so I look forward to talking to you when I get back.

Steve Wright: If you can figure out how to use that computer.

Chris Kresser: Yeah!

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Join the conversation

  1. So does caffeine act as an insectide in coffee or is that something else?

    In the Smart Drug Smarts podcast, Dr. Laura Juliano talks about the positive aspects of caffeine alone… while Monica Reinagel points out, “drinking tea doesn’t seem to reduce your risk of diabetes, even though tea contains caffeine. On the other hand, people who drink decaffeinated coffee do have a reduced risk, but decaf only seems to work about half as well as caffeinated coffee.”

    I like to add a little spice to my morning coffee, a mixture of cayenne pepper, clove, ginger, Viva Cacao Powder, frontier tumeric, cardamom, ceylon cinnamon powder, and peppercorn.

    Are there any brands of coffee that are perhaps better than others? Lavazza? Perhaps a mixture of Greek/Turkish coffee (ex. Loumidis ) with traditional coffee?

    Also anyone interested in how coffee is made, there was a great podcast entitled

    This is interesting study that showed how percolated coffee (french press) elevates cholesterol not from the caffeine, but from the volatile oils in coffee!

    Also, there’s a great paper on how a build up of Adenosine in the brain (from ATP breakdown) causes sleepiness by covering key receptors, and caffeine acts to remove the Adenosine!

  2. You are also young too Chris and may be able to handle this better than someone my age who is almost 65. According to “Caffeine Blues” coffee effects women differently than men, especially women who are menopausal and beyond and also have CFS and Fibro, which I have. I only drink 1 or 2 cups of organic coffee in the morning but it hasn’t helped to lower my blood sugar; in fact, it is worse and is talked about that in the book I highly recommend anyone to read this book. This book has become my bible. Coffee does not help my inflammation but makes it worse. It certainly makes my depression worse and I become angry after drinking it. One thing Stephen Cherniske, M.S. recommends in that book is that anyone who has stomach problems should avoid it and most of us suffer with these problems. I have had a love/hate relationship with coffee for so long and still drink it because of all the emails and articles I read about the health benefits but I am getting ready to quit it again. I believe that all the alternative doctors who once were against coffee and now believe it is good for you have sold out to the caffeine industry, just like so many organic companies have sold out to Monsanto. If they do recommend coffee, it has to be organic and black. I can’t stomach black coffee and most of us, like myself add cream, half & half or sugar. Even though Yerba Mate contains caffeine, I feel better on it.

    • So evidence suggests Yerba Mate consumption may lead to esophageal cancer.

      The mechanism is unknown at this time; some say the temperature it is drank at, while others attribute it to the quantity.

      All to say – look hard enough and you’ll find conflicting viewpoints for any subject matter.

      I don’t think it’s about selling out to caffeine distributors.

      It goes back to what Chris said – YOU are what makes the substance (in this case coffee) equation work or not work.

      I.e. I love strawberries. If organic they are amazing. Taste great, offer antioxidant benefits and generally make me happy. If, however my sister eats them, she goes into anaphylactic shock and could die.

      Just a different perspective for you to consider.


      In fact. If you dig deep enough there is almost always a deeper underlying issue with your symptoms – I.e. Gut dysbiosis causing an inflammatory response to coffee and/or other substances.

  3. Thank you for all of this useful information Chris. I am wondering if coffee should be avoided with SIBO? I see it on the avoid list often. I would like to know your thoughts.

    Thank you!

  4. Love how you write so much about coffee and dont mention cortisol once. Activating the fight-or-flight response is not good however you want to dress it up. Let’s not ignore the fact coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops as well. Organic coffee is expensive.

  5. Hi Chris, Team,
    Is it OK to drink carbon dioxide decaf’ coffee. I’ve seen it claimed that method’s safer than the swiss water process?
    Right now, I am 24 days into the 14four and wanted a taste of coffee!
    It might be nice to have a decaf’ on hand for drinking after 2 pm anyway, if I prove to be able to reintroduce caffeine – eventually.
    Some claim that caffeine is an irritant for the prostate / urinary tract – others (Mr Bulletproof) that coffee is actually good against prostate troubles.
    Maybe good organic water or carbon dioxide decaf is the ideal compromise.
    I’d really love to know what you think about those two processes please.
    Thanks so much, great resource, love the podcast.
    have a good week

  6. This was very helpful.

    I couldn’t help but think about Dave Asprey/Bullet Proof Executive/Bullet Proof Coffee amidst this one. I definitely wouldn’t advise anyone wasting money on his ‘micro-toxin free coffee’ – I tried it, and noticed no decrease in jitters/sleep troubles. As Chris pointed out, coffee’s effects greatly depend on life stage/other things going on; ‘bullet proof’ coffee can negatively affect you like any other high quality coffee if you’re stressed and adrenally fatigued.
    Not advocating Folgers, but any local roaster who buys from farms they’ve been to is a good rule of thumb.
    I actually posted this type of review on bulletproof’s website, and they never posted it… so be warned, they only post positive reviews, hence why everything sounds like a silver bullet on that site.

    Thanks again for helping us see the forest, and not just the trees, Chris – as many other faux-science sites out there are prone to do.

  7. Hi Chris
    Thanks for your interesting article.
    I am pregnant and bought the Healthy Baby Code. I know coffee is not recommended during pregnancy and am making a serious effort not to drink it but I miss it every single day. I have very low tension and when non-pregnant I totally depend on my morning cup of coffee. Do you think drinking half a cup of coffee in the morning would be harmful for the baby? Please, could you inform me of the dangers demonstrated by scientific literature? (I need to motivate myself every morning in order to avoid drinking it or I will fall into temptation…)
    Thank you very much!!!!

    • I’ve seen studies (like this one) linking higher caffeine consumption during pregnancy with higher risk of pre-term birth or low birth weight. There was no appreciable increase in risk with caffeine intake <50 grams per day, though. That's about 1/2 cup of coffee. If you want to be conservative I would limit to decaf or not at all. Otherwise I might suggest limiting to 4 ounces (this is drip coffee, not expresso) 3-4 times a week. Make it a treat.

  8. Hi Chris,
    Enjoyed your coffee article! Wondered what you thought of the studies that have found that coffee and caffeine in general binds with calcium and contributes to loss of bone density?

  9. Chris, I see you make no mention of the importance of drinking organic coffee, especially if you are gluten free. Ground coffee is one of the hidden sources of major gluten contamination, esp. instant coffee. I learned the hard way and now buy organic beans and grind them myself in my gluten free kitchen.

    • Chris does talk about organic coffee in this podcast (paragraphs 7 and 8 under Coffee intake considerations).

  10. Hi Chris, I’ve read before that coffee increased insulin levels so it was not healthful.
    My Dad is gastroenterologyst and when I was under hormonal treatment they forbidden my coffe intake since it produces calcium deficiency.
    I was also told from a Chinese dr. That studies in China have prove, caffeine in any form should be consumed only after 12 and before 4pm cause it interferes with detox body processes.
    So I’m a bit skeptical about the good side of coffe and caffeine.

    • Hi Marcela,

      Do you drink coffee at all? If so would it be an option to quit drinking? I know for me that it’s going to be tough! I’m drinking a lot. That’s why I’m reading to see if I should stop or if it’s oke.