Each morning, millions of Malaysians would anticipate the day’s activity with a cup of coffee. Many that I have known, depend on coffee for its boost in energy levels and most importantly, to stay alert throughout the day. Coffee has been with us since centuries ago, and has been the most consumed beverage in the world with almost 500 billion cups consumed annually. Coffee is a complex mixture of chemicals, and is the main source of caffeine in many populations. However, it also contains thousands of different chemicals, including carbohydrates, lipids, nitrogenous compounds, vitamins, minerals, alkaloids and phenolic compounds.
Researchers have discovered that there are many other health benefits than just boosting energy levels and staying alert. Caffeine is major component of coffee and is the reason behind its popularity. It is one of the most consumed psychoactive drugs worldwide. It is primary function is to inhibit drowsiness by inducing stimulatory effect to the brain. Similarly, it has a protective effect on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s disease. A Finnish study found coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life compared with those drinking no or only little coffee and that the lowest risk of dementia was found in people who drank 3 to 5 cups per day.
Coffee beans contain phenolic antioxidant compounds. Chlorogenic acid is one of the major strong antioxidant compounds in coffee. It is observed that medium roasted beans have the maximum antioxidant activity. It helps by stopping or limiting the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that we face every day either through chemicals our body produces by turning food into energy, environmental toxins, like tobacco, alcohol, and pollution ultraviolet rays from the sun, tanning beds or substances found in processed food. These radicals are responsible for the aging of our bodies and may play a part in diseases, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Moderate consumption of coffee may aid in preventing certain cancers. A review of epidemiological evidence for associations between coffee consumption and cancer suggested a strong and consistent protective association for hepatocellular and endometrial cancers, a borderline protective association for colorectal cancer, no association with breast, pancreatic, kidney, ovarian, prostate or gastric cancer and a weak association with increased risk of bladder cancer with heavy coffee consumption in some populations and among men.
Furthermore, caffeine has also been observed to aid in the reduction of low back pain. Like adenosine, it has the ability of blocking up receptors responsible for neuropathic pain, nociceptive and inflammatory models. Despite this, there is no change in the release of dopamine (pleasure) and therefore does not have abuse potential like other adenosine blocking agents, such as cocaine.
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