The smell of freshly brewed coffee is a morning ritual for many around the world. In fact, over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year, making it one of the most popular global beverages. Coffee is a stimulant, and so it boosts personal productivity for many people. It also serves a social function as people gather around steaming mugs at dinner tables and coffee shops. What could possibly be wrong about such a popular, productive, and social drink? Unfortunately, there’s another side to coffee. It contains caffeine, an addictive chemical that is also present in cigarettes. Coffee is, therefore, habit-forming, and this raises serious questions about the possible effects that coffee has on its users. The research is not clear, however, and this only complicates the question of how bad coffee truly is. In light of its addictive power, however, consumers should carefully weigh both the positive and negative health aspects of drinking coffee.
How might drinking coffee be good for people? In addition to containing caffeine, coffee also contains antioxidants (Jung 153-175), which are useful in preventing certain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and even reducing the chances of developing type-2 diabetes. Antioxidants also boost the liver health of the users and reduce the chances of heart disease (Bohn et al., 915-930). Other studies suggest that regular intake of coffee also reduces the chances of heart disease by 11% among the users (Guessous et al., 468). All of this would seem to make a very strong case for the health benefits of drinking coffee.
What are negative effects of drinking coffee? Once again, there is plenty of research that addresses this question. On the social level, for example, coffee drinking is connected with the consumption of fast food and junk food, such as doughnuts. This combination increases the intake of carbohydrates and therefore increases the blood sugar level (Bohn et al., 915-930). The result is an increased chance of developing diabetes, as a byproduct of coffee drinking and its association with sugary treats.
Coffee is also associated with psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety (Jung 153-175). Researchers have identified caffeine as the substance that can induce depression in coffee drinkers. When a person with a pre-existing disorder uses coffee, there is a strong likelihood of inducing anxiety. Addiction to caffeine may also induce mild headaches and inactivity where a person fails to take coffee. This can result in a cycle of dependency and an unbreakable reliance on coffee to generate energy throughout the day.
With so much contradictory research, how do we reconcile the competing claims? In answer to this question there’s another dimension to the coffee debate that should be considered. Coffee serves a social and economic role as well, and this needs to be weighed against the health claims. Most forms of addiction have serious negative consequences to society. The ability of individuals is compromised by drugs, for example. Cigarette smoking, too, adds significant financial strain to the healthcare system and is a proven detriment to the health of individuals. Coffee, on the other hand, can increase productivity, energy, and focus. Studies suggest that taking coffee in the morning increases the productivity of the user (Guessous at al. 468). In the same way, coffee is commonly used to reduce fatigue and increase the endurance of a worker, especially when a person has to work late into the night. Coffee therefore seems to have the opposite impact on individuals and society as compared to other forms of substance addiction.
So what should the coffee drinker do? Clearly, an addictive reliance on any substance, regardless of its potential benefits, is not good. Addiction of any kind tends to limit the scope of a person’s actions; furthermore, the addiction creates a condition whereby a person will face reduced productivity and psychological anxiety if the substance is not available. While coffee may have positive benefits on the users, addiction itself is negative because it creates reliance.
In conclusion, I am not sure that addiction to coffee is an altogether bad thing. Caffeine can have negative heath effects for some people, depending on how it is taken. On the other hand, coffee also increases productivity and can reduce the incidence of certain diseases. Perhaps the most that we can claim for coffee, after looking at all the research, is that moderation should always be the goal. Too much of a good thing is simply too much, and addiction to anything is never good. A freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning, however, can still the perfect way to jumpstart a productive day.
- Bohn, Kjolsrud S., Blomhuff, Rune, and Paur, Ingvild. “Coffee and Cancer Risk: Epidemiological Evidence and Molecular Mechanisms.” Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 58. (2014): 915-930.
- Guessous, Idris, Eap, Chin, B., and Bochud, Murielle. “Blood Pressure in Relation to Coffee and Caffeine Consumption.” Current Science. 16.9 (2014): 468.
- Jung, Ja Y. “Effect of Negative Awareness of Coffee on its Preference and Recommendation Intention.” Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal. 19.3 (2013): 153-174.