Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Coffee a Health Food? Well, Sort Of.

A number of research studies are confirming that certain phytochemicals in the coffee bean, known as chlororgenic acids, may provide some profound health benefits. Accumulating evidence suggests that certain dietary polyphenols have biological effects in the small intestine which beneficially alter the pattern of glucose uptake.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrated that derivatives of chlorogenic acid inhibit glucose-6-phosphase translocase. This enzyme system plays a major role in the homeostatic regulation of blood sugar. It is responsible for the formation of endogenous glucose originating from gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis. Gl-6-P translocase inhibitors like chlorogenic acid from the coffee bean “may be useful for the reduction of inappropriately high rates of hepatic glucose output often found in non-insulin-dependent diabetes,” stated the authors of the study.

This is consistent with earlier studies showing that chlorogenic acids in coffee modulate glucose uptake and gastrointestinal hormone and insulin secretion in humans. [Arch Biochem Biophys. 1997 Mar 15;339(2):315-22. J Med Chem. 1997 Jan 17;40(2):137-45.]

As a result of this positive research, some are hailing coffee as a health food. However, there is more to consider.

The studies used derivatives of the coffee bean, not the entire coffee bean, and not drinkable coffee. While there appear to be definite health benefits from the isolated phytochemicals in the coffee bean, research has also suggested that the caffeine in coffee can leach minerals like calcium, disrupt the microbial balance in the gut, and contribute to hypertension.

Two cups of brewed coffee contain approximately 300 mg of caffeine. Each 300 mg of caffeine leaches 15 mg of calcium from the human body. Some researchers have suggested that 40 mg of calcium loss per day creates 10-15 percent bone loss per decade. This means that between the ages of 30 and 60, coffee drinking alone could equal a minimum of at least 30 percent bone loss.

But there is hope for coffee lovers.

If one chooses to continue enjoying their coffee in moderation, as I do, the subsequent mineral and healthy gut bacteria loss can easily be replaced with supplements. Calcium and mineral-rich formulas in the chelate forms are great choices. Likewise, identity-certified probiotics like the NCFM strain of lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the many choices to replace gut flora.

As far as supporting blood sugar goes, one should not presume that drinking coffee is supportive since the studies used the phytochemical derivatives and not drinkable coffee. However, supplements can solve this dilemma as well. Using chlorogenic acid in supplement form appears to be very supportive in a blood sugar regulating program, perhaps most especially if added to other supportive nutrients. A new blood-sugar regulating medical food features the same supportive nutrients for blood sugar and insulin control that the original formula has, but with the added addition of chlorogenic acid, beta glucans, reduced iso-alpha acids (RIAA) from hops, and acacia. Read a compelling case study on this medical food.