Coffee is a stimulant in wide use around the globe and especially in the United States. Before one can analyze the relative risks and benefits of coffee, one must be aware of its effects and components.
The central ingredient of coffee – when used as a stimulant – is caffeine, a relatively mild psychoactive stimulant. It is consumed by over 90% of North American adults daily, and is considered addictive.
As with any stimulant, there are inherent risks in use and abuse. Lack of sleep has proven derogatory effects, and can even lead to hallucination and paranoia in severe cases. Especially when coupled with the increased anxiety commonly tied to the use of stimulants. This can make driving, or other high risk activities, dramatically more dangerous. There are few safeguards in place to prevent the use of caffeine in conjunction with these high risk activities.
In addition to the problems tied to the use of any stimulant, caffeine has specific dangers of its own. It increases production of stomach acid and can create or exacerbate ulcers or acid reflux. It has been linked to miscarriages in pregnant women; and it not only rapidly creates a tolerance, it also generates an addictive withdrawal effect in those who use it regularly and then attempt to cease.
As with any stimulant, there are perceived benefits which may, to some minds, counterbalance the genuine risks of caffeine (and, consequently, coffee) use. These benefits tend to be purely subjective in nature and perception, although there may be links between caffeine and reduced rates of Parkinson’s Disease, and caffeine has long been used as a headache treatment because of it’s ability to dilate the blood vessels. Still, the benefits do not appear to outweigh the risks by any objective measurement.
However – although caffeine is a natural component of coffee, decaffeination can be used to create a beverage that is strictly flavour, without a stimulant effect. This “de-caf” coffee poses few significant health risks and, for those with a taste for the relatively bitter bean, can provide a healthful alternative.
It is clear that in terms of health risk, coffee is a relatively minor culprit when compared to the parasite within – the caffeine that can cause addiction and damage to the unaware user.
1. Coffee and health: What does the research say? – Mayo Clinic
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