Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drink Coffee -- It's Good For Your Health

The Espresso Break:   Neapolitans have a strongly held cultural belief that coffee is good for your health.  Perhaps this notion dates back to The Code of Health of the School of Salernum, a manuscript written by anonymous physicians around the twelfth century:

Order of Supping

Begin with meats, with coffee then conclude;
Eschew such drinks as toper hands have brewed,
Which burn our flesh, yet palate all delude.
Be bread the last of anything you eat,
And after meals shun fires that give much heat.
But supper over, then give time beguile
With rest, or gently strolling for a mile.

-- and --

Coffee to some gives sleep, to some unrest;
Headache relieves, and stomach when oppressed; 
Will monthly flow and urine too procure.
Take it slow-roasted, each grain picked and pure.

Because the manuscript is a compendium of dietary recommendations, the Code of Health demonstrates that at least some people within the region used coffee as an everyday beverage.  If true, the dark brew in Campania pre-dates the introduction of coffee to the whole of Europe, traditionally given as 1615 when merchants brought the drink to Venice.

Today, modern day medical researchers also find coffee to be healthy.  The pan-European Coffee Science Information Center cites the following:

  • A study of 72,284 Italians showed that there was an inverse association between intake of coffee and the prevalence of asthma.  Risk of asthma fell by 28% when three or more cups of coffee were drunk everyday.  Therefore, caffeine is an effective bronchodilator.
  • Coffee possesses greater in vitro anti-oxidant activity than other beverages due to photogenic acid and the meanoidins created during the roasting process.  Hence, it may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Moderate consumption of coffee may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • A control study in Italy showed an inverse association between coffee consumption and ultrasound documented gallstones.
  • Coffee may also protect against liver cirrhosis.
  • Studies say that there is a 31% less chance of developing Parkinson’s disease if one drinks coffee.
  • Portuguese and Canadian studies have shown coffee intake may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coffee may be an ergogenic aid that improves the capacity to do work and exercise, prolonging the time of exhaustion and enhancing performance.
  • Coffee improves alertness, which in particular helps car divers, thereby reducing the number of accidents.

In spite of these health benefits, Italians actually drink less coffee on average than other EU countries.  The small-portioned espresso shot may be the reason.  And because water touches the coffee grinds for less time in an espresso machine, the caffeine content in an espresso shot is a mere 100 mg in comparison to a 7-ounce cup of brewed coffee that has 115-175 mg of caffeine.  So if Italians hold the key to 'best coffee intake practices', temperate portions also play a role in the dark brew's health benefits.

With that, I say, to your health -- Drink Espresso!


bPotash said...

I love espresso. Especially lavazza espresso, easily the best brand around.

Barbara said...

Lavazza! Oh no! That roaster is based in Northern Italy... Torino to be exact. They only use Arabica beans and their blends are not as strong or semi-sweet as the Neapolitan. They are also a HUGE corporation (like Starbucks). Nothing like the small shop roasters in the rest of Italy. My favorite is actually Cafe Moreno and Passalaqua.

LindyLouMac said...

Great to read these health benefits. I like the new look of your blog also following you on Twitter now :)

Barbara said...

Thanks Lindy Lou! Look forward to seeing you on Twitter! Saluti.

Bob White said...

Coffee has been a favorite with a majority of the population of the world many people know the health benefits associated with it and many keep healthy without knowing the reason that coffee is the secret of their health.