Coffee: Controversy and Potential Benefits of by-products

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There are two main arguments to be considered when drinking #coffee, firstly its high #antioxidant status and secondly the potential risk factors associated with the #stimulant #caffeine. There have been various studies and articles written about coffee including how it can lengthen your lifespan by lowering the risk of death from several conditions including heart disease, its ability to improve memory, mood, energy and cognitive function, or how it may help the breakdown of body fat. On the other side of the argument there are reports of people suffering from dizziness, tremors and insomnia. High doses of caffeine can be linked with anxiety, digestive issues, high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate.  A new study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has caused headlines this week claiming that the occasional coffee can cause miscarriage for #pregnant women.

The study was presented at the ASRM’s annual congress and showed a trial with 1,228 women attempting to get pregnant between 2007 and 2011. The participants provided a self-reported intake of caffeine and blood serum levels were also taken at both pre-conception and at eight weeks of gestation. The team of researchers found that any level of caffeine intake during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, particularly during the first eight weeks of gestation, and advised women attempting to conceive may benefit from eliminating caffeine intake during early pregnancy and preconception. This is obviously alarming news, but it must be remembered that it has been based on secondary analysis of self-reported data. On reviewing the study Ying Cheong, a professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Southampton said “Given it’s a study nested within a study on women with a history of pregnancy losses, I do not think the results can yet be generalised. The ingrained coffee culture in today’s society would need many more robust studies to change.” There are many other studies based on the intake of caffeine in pregnancy, the rigorous Cochrane Collaboration found no difference in outcomes when randomly giving either caffeine or decaffeinated drinks to women during pregnancy.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been investigating the health benefits of the by-products of coffee beans. To reach the coffee bean, growers must remove the husk and silverskin, to produce one tonne of fresh coffee 0.68 tonnes of green coffee waste are produced, the study aimed to see if some of this waste could be useful for its bioactive properties. The scientists used extracts of silverskin and husk to examine if they could reduce some of the biochemical hallmarks of #obesity. They used cultured cells to investigate the effects of the coffee extracts on #obesity-related #inflammation, #mitochondrial dysfunction, #insulin resistance and #adipogenesis.  Stimulating real-life interactions between cells they found that by using #protocatechuic acid and #gallic acid, both pure phenolics extracted from the coffee skin, they were able to block the fat build up in fat cells by triggering #lipolysis, the break down of fats. They also generated brown fat cells, that have more mitochondria, enabling them to act as fat burners. The phenolics were also found to decrease inflammatory factors secreted from the cells. This is the first step in a long journey to provide a usable intervention, but the fact it could both benefit health and the environment makes it an idea to pursue with further studies. Ultimately, studies are all down to interpretation and weighing up both the risks and benefits of the evidence. Coffee looks set to continue being one of the more controversial foodstuffs.

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