Coffee is a beverage that generates controversy everywhere. It is not entirely clear whether it is a healthy liquid or the opposite. The reason? Periodically new scientific studies emerge that provide different views on the properties of coffee and the benefits of drinking it on human health.

The latest of these studies seems to yield interesting conclusions. Carried out by researchers from McMaster University in Canada and published in the journal Nature Communications, this research linked coffee consumption with certain cardiovascular benefits by facilitating the elimination of what is known as “bad” cholesterol, whose technical name is LDL lipoproteins. Specifically, this coffee goodness seems to be attributed to a liver protein called PCSK9 whose levels are affected in the presence of caffeine.

This is not the first time that drinking coffee has been associated with health benefits of this kind. In fact, in recent years several scientific studies have associated this beverage with various health benefits: for example, in the improvement of physical performance or concentration. However, the most resounding effect caused by coffee is the reduction of all-cause mortality, as pointed out by a very large study in 2018 in which more than half a million people participated.

If we come down from the pedestal to look for other humble and everyday effects of coffee -no less interesting for that- we will find very interesting data. Did you know that it is convenient to drink a coffee before taking a nap? It is recommended to drink coffee before sleeping to wake up with an important energy boost: it is known as “coffee nap”. The reason lies in the time it takes for caffeine to work its magic, being approximately 20-30 minutes. This range of time will be fabulous to achieve an optimal rest at midday that will allow us to face the remaining day with energy.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the star component of coffee, since most of its virtues are related to this compound. But what exactly is caffeine? It is a chemical compound belonging to the alkaloid family that is found naturally in foods such as coffee, tea or cocoa. On the other hand, it is also added to other beverages artificially for its stimulant function, as in the case of so-called energy drinks. Incidentally, these drinks are currently a major public health problem. They are specifically targeted at a rather vulnerable group of the population: adolescents.

The effect of caffeine on our organism focuses on the stimulation of the central nervous system, reducing drowsiness and increasing our alertness when consumed in moderate doses. However, if we overdo it with coffee its harmful effects can wreak havoc: irritability, lack of concentration, anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as tachycardia in the most extreme cases. This is the main reason to closely monitor its consumption in the younger population, which is usually the most vulnerable to caffeine. In addition, it is a substance that is especially contraindicated in pregnant women, since its excessive consumption is related to retarded growth of the fetus.

How much caffeine do we drink?

According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) data, children between 3-10 years of age consume on average in the European Union between 0.2 and 2 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight, with chocolate being the main food source. For age ranges between 10 and 18 years, the figures are between 0.4 and 1.4 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.

What about adult people? The truth is that for adults the figures are very varied, but on average we do not exceed 320 mg of total caffeine per day. On the other hand, the EFSA itself concludes that the maximum amount of caffeine that can be consumed without problems is up to 400 milligrams, which would be equivalent to approximately 5.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight for the general healthy adult population. How many coffees is that? In plain English, it means that a consumption between 2-5 coffees per day does not seem to pose a risk to our health.

The ranges are approximate, as each coffee is different. It is difficult to estimate the content of caffeine present in a coffee, since it can vary according to the variety of the bean, type of roasting and the way it is prepared. On average, it is established that an espresso coffee can contain about 80 mg of caffeine, the same figure as a standard can of energy drink (250 ml). For a cup of tea of about 220 ml we would be talking about 50 mg of caffeine, and in the case of a cola soft drink about 40 mg.

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