Friday, October 3, 2008


One common component in all the three stimulant beverage crops is caffeine which is present in different levels in the final product. While coffee and tea are consumed with or without milk, cocoa is invariably an adjunct to milk giving fine aroma, color and taste. Besides cocoa also is consumed after processing it into different types of chocolates by making finely ground cocoa mass which is blended with ingredients like sugar, milk, dry fruits and nuts and molded. Tons of published data eulogizes the goodness and health protecting properties of  green and black tea preparations. Same is true with cocoa also. But coffee is invariably depicted as a villain, barred for consumption by children, growing adults, expectant mothers, geriatric population and others affected by one or the other health disorders. Many ill effects have been attributed to coffee consumption and most of them do not stand strict scientific scrutiny but still continue to deter potential consumers from patronizing this refreshing beverage. Despite this, in America alone, on an average, more than 200 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year and Coffee chains like Starbucks, Barista, Cafe Coffee Day and others are still doing roaring business 
If caffeine is the causative factor, as being felt by many consumers, tea should be a greater villain as its leaves contain 2-4.4% caffeine on dry weight basis whereas coffee has only 1-2% caffeine. Of course in the final beverage caffeine can vary depending on brewing conditions and the brew strength achieved. But generally brewed coffee contains 75-150 mg of caffeine per 150 ml compared to 30 to 45 mg in light tea brew. Cocoa beverage has still lower caffeine content, about 30-35 mg. However, daily intake of tea beverage by many consumers is often more than that taken by coffee connoisseurs and as such caffeine may not be considered the determining factor in deriding coffee in favor of tea.
In order to put to rest any misgivings about the imagined ill effects consequent to regular consumption of coffee an international investigational endeavor was undertaken by the Centre for Science in Public Interest, USA and the results are indeed astonishing. The reported diuretic effect of coffee was debunked as up to 550 mg of caffeine do not increase the urine out put beyond the normal limits. Heart patients and hyper tension patients for whom coffee is generally forbidden, were not found to have any adverse effect by drinking coffee in more than 4 lakh subjects tested in 10 different studies. Linking coffee drinking with pancreatic cancer, first reported in 1981 by Harvard University scientists has also been conclusively disproved. Calcium mal absorption and calcium loss from the bones in coffee drinkers, as claimed by some, are also not true. The claim that coffee can aid weight control has not been found to be true though for every 100 mg caffeine intake an extra 100 calories of energy is burned in the body.
On the positive side coffee may yet turn out to be a hero, if some of the recent reports are taken into consideration. Colo-rectal, liver and breast cancers most commonly occurring to day seem to have an inverse relationship with coffee drinking, probably due to high levels of antioxidants present in roasted coffee. The life time risks for developing these cancers are considerably reduced by increased consumption of coffee as confirmed by studies using 60,323 subjects in the age group 25-75 over a period of 19 years. This is further confirmed by a Japanese study involving 90,000 subjects. A Norwegian study reported a strong negative association between coffee drinking and non-melanoma skin cancer. Similarly there are many reports supporting the beneficial role of coffee in affording protection against Type II diabetes, the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.  
If even a part of what has been said about the benign nature of coffee is true, it is time the unjust image of a villain, imposed on coffee is removed from the minds of one and all and more consumers start enjoying this delicious beverage without any inhibition, experiencing the ability of this 'gift of the nature' crop to enhance the mood and boost mental and physical performance. The health advantage will be a bonus!

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