Coffee perks

Steve Matthews loves his morning coffee. It’s a must, he says, to start his day.

“Just your basic cup or two, with cream,” the Seattle man said as he sat in Starbucks at Kukui Grove Center.

Matthews, who’s visiting Kauai, has long been a coffee drinker. Without it, well, he feels like it’s just going to be one of those long, lazy days.

But mentally and physically, he feels a bit more jazzed up to begin his daily workout that usually involves running or biking, depending on the day.

If he doesn’t have a cup of Joe at home, he picks one up on his way to work in downtown Seattle.

“Coffee is one of the cheapest simple pleasures in life,” he said.

Matthews is far from alone.

According to Statistic Brain, the total amount of U.S. coffee drinkers who claim to need a cup of coffee to start their day is 60 percent

The percentage of coffee drinkers who say coffee makes them feel more like themselves is 54 percent, while the percentage of coffee drinkers who have a cup within the first hour of waking up is 68 percent.

Millions of men and women, from teens to seniors, will get their daily dose of caffeine at some point during the day.

People worldwide — estimates fall in the 500 billion cups a year — love their lattes, cafe mochas, espressos and Americanos or plain old drip.

Whether blended, hot, cold or somewhere in between, it’s estimated more than 50 percent of Americans drink three to four cups a day.

According to some doctors and studies, coffee really is good for you.

“Often people think of coffee just as a vehicle for caffeine,” writes Dr. Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health in an article on theweek.com

 “But it’s actually a very complex beverage,” containing hundreds of different chemical compounds.

Grown in more than 70 countries around the world — including by Kauai Coffee here on Kauai — coffee has a somewhat contentious history with health experts, who have long cautioned that over-consumption may be detrimental to our health, Van Dam writes.

He says that coffee, when consumed in moderate amounts and without too much sugar or cream, has health benefits.

A joint study from the National Institutes of Health and AARP found that folks who drank four or more cups of java a day were 10 percent less likely to be depressed than someone who didn’t drink coffee at all.

Coffee’s active ingredient is caffeine, which is a stimulant and gets credit for an array of benefits.

It is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants and can, according to various studies and websites: Make you smarter, be good for your liver, help you burn fat which benefits weight loss, improve physical performance, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, reduces the risk of suicide.

With that kind of review, no wonder everyone is attracted to the nearest coffee house — forget the pleasures of casual conversation with a friend over black coffee.

It’s legal and it’s cheap, but don’t drink too much.

Researchers caution that any more than four cups, though, might actually prove detrimental to your mental health. According to The Week, a Finnish study concluded that people who drank eight to nine cups a day were actually at higher risk of suicide than those who drank a more modest amount.

Beware of too much coffee, writes Dr. Mark Hyman on his blog.

Once an avid coffee drinker, Hyman cut back. Way back.

He cites these reasons as the “dark side of coffee and caffeine:”

• It is addictive. It requires you to drink more and more to get the same “high” and eventually is needed just to feel “normal.” Headaches, exhaustion and other biological signs of withdrawal put it clearly in the camp of addictive drugs.

• It stimulates the release of dopamine, which helps us focus, pay attention, and remember. But it depletes those neurotransmitters over time and loses its effectiveness

• It stimulates the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. This may lead to palpitations, anxiety, insomnia and even spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

• It increases homocysteine (increasing risks for heart disease, depression, cancer and dementia) and depletes vitamins and causes mineral loss, including magnesium the relaxation mineral.

• It causes the urinary excretion of calcium and contributes to osteoporosis.

• It can cause diarrhea, reflux and heartburn.

• It may interact with common medications such as Tylenol, causing liver damage.

• Coffee increases the risk of stillbirths and iron deficiency in mothers and babies.

“Occasional use of addictive legal drugs such as alcohol, sugar, or caffeine cause no harm, but regular, habitual use and addiction may cause significant risk,” Hyman writes. “But more importantly, it has a negative effect on the quality of life for many who drink it — they sleep poorly and are more tired, irritable and anxious.”

But there is no doubt, we love to brew pot after pot.

Consider these Coffee Drinking Statistics from Statistic Brain

• Total percentage of Americans over the age of 18 who drink coffee every day — 54 percent

• Average size of a coffee cup — 9 ounces

• Average price of an espresso-based drink — $2.45

• Average price for a cup of brewed coffee — $1.38

• Total percentage of coffee drinkers who prefer their coffee black — 35 percent

• Total percentage of coffee consumption that takes place during breakfast hours — 65 percent

• Total amount of money spent by importing coffee to U.S. each year — $4 billion

• Total percentage of coffee Brazil produces of entire world’s output — 30 percent

• Total amount of cups of coffee (9 ounces) a coffee drinker consumes daily – 3.1

• Total average of money spent on coffee each year by coffee drinkers — $164.71

• Total number of U.S. daily coffee drinkers — 100 million

• Total percentage of coffee drinkers who drink 13 or more cups of coffee each week — 24 percent

• Total percentage of coffee drinkers who add cream and/or sugar — 65 percent

• Total amount of U.S. coffee drinkers who claim to need a cup of coffee to start their day — 60 percent

• Total percentage of coffee drinkers who say coffee makes them feel more like themselves — 54 percent

• Total percentage of coffee drinkers who have a cup within the first hour of waking up — 68 percent

• Total amount of yearly money spent on specialty coffee in the U.S. — $18 billion

“It’s tough to make it through the day without a visit here,” said Angela Johannson as she sat in Starbucks, typing away on her laptop with a large latte on the table.

She avoids coffee at night, though, decaf or regular, because she can’t sleep after drinking it.

But in morning, the pot’s brewing once again.

“I grind the beans,” she said. “Much better than the canned stuff. And don’t even talk about instant.”

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