Thursday, March 10, 2011


We all have our vices in life and coffee is certainly one of mine, only to be beaten out by rich, bitter dark chocolate. Oooh, put the two together and I am completely and utterly defenseless. The robust smell alone is enough to lure me into any coffee shop. Unlike my chocolate, I despise a bitter cup of coffee. Therefore, I usually order an espresso drink. In the past I have avoided buying a coffee maker to be sure I do not get too dependent on the stuff.  Nevertheless, after starting a job at a hospital with not one, but two Starbucks, I decided it was time to buy my first coffee pot as one soy latte was costing me just under $5. Times that by three to four days a week and that quickly adds up to $80/month or $960/year!!! That's insane! I usually have up to two cups of coffee in the morning and then switch to tea or water the rest of the day. To make myself feel better, I decided I would research coffee to see if it was really that hard on my body, if consumed in moderation.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, many studies have investigated the effects of caffeine intake on fertility and pregnancy.  The majority have found that moderate caffeine intake (<150 mg/day or 1 1/2 cups of coffee) does not affect fertility or increase the chance of having a miscarriage or a baby with birth defects. However, most of the studies did not consider the lifestyle factors that could contribute to infertility or miscarriages. The Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS) and Mortherisk are in agreement that moderate caffeine intakes are safe. Yet, caffeine can enter breast milk and lead to wakeful and agitated babies. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that nursing women limit caffeine, but states that no harm is likely to occur from one cup of coffee (8-12 fluid oz.) a day. I feel comfortable that my one to two cups of coffee are not going to have an effect on my fertility after reviewing multiple studies. However, I believe I will break off my love affair with coffee in the future during my actual pregnancy as caffeine does pass from the mother to her child through the placenta. The March of Dimes suggests that the "systems for breaking down and eliminating chemicals are not fully developed in the unborn child" and that "the blood levels of caffeine may remain elevated for longer periods in the unborn child compared to the mother." All of the previously named groups are in agreement that high caffeine intake (>300 mg/day or about three cups/day) should be avoided during pregnancy.

When it comes to your own personal health, caffeine's effects have been studied endlessly. According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine can have a short, but dramatic effect on your blood pressure. The amount of caffeine in two to three cups of coffee can raise systolic pressure (the top number) 3 to 14 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic (bottom number) by 4 to 13 mm Hg. Lucky for me, my blood pressure has always been on the low side, but if you struggle with high blood pressure, you may want to cut back on your caffeine intake (not just coffee). Also, according to a study published by the National Institute of Mental Health, caffeine is not a good substitute for a nap when it comes to improving motor learning and verbal memory for the sleep deprived. Caffeine boosts alertness and concentration, but the nappers had significantly better performance when it came to motor tasks, memory recalls and perceptual learning. Moral of the story, be sure to get your zzz's. The Sleep Foundation suggests 7 to 8 hours for the average adult.

In addition, recent studies have concluded that the consumption of caffeine was not significantly associated with an overall increased risk of breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter) unless the women drank four or more cups of coffee a day. There is suggestion that heavy caffeine consumers have an increased risk for tumors that are negative for both estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) and for tumors larger than 2 centimeters --factors that lead to a poorer prognosis. These types of findings suggest that caffeine may speed the progression of existing tumors, but more research is needed. Also, well-known nutrition researcher Walter Willett, MD suggests that coffee and caffeine may be protective against type 2 diabetes according to several studies and a research analysis. He also adds, "it is fair to say that, so far, the overall balance of risks and benefits are on the side of benefits."

Overall, this is good news for me! For now, I will continue to have my occasional cup or two of coffee and do it without any guilt at all. That's it for "Thirsty Thursday."

Positive vibes....

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