By Blake Nourie
Coffee drinkers worldwide often reach for their morning cup for increased productivity, but what many don’t realize is that their drink contains 1,500 chemicals in addition to caffeine. Most of these chemicals are in minute concentrations, and when enough are combined, they can be used for medicinal or practical purposes.
One of coffee’s main health benefits is its rich source of antioxidants, most of which are found in the form of phenolics. Antioxidants are a large class of molecules that absorb free radical electrons, which can cause DNA damage. Some scientists suggest that antioxidants can help protect cells from getting cancer.
Although long-term antioxidant studies are inconclusive, coffee drinkers have statistically fewer cases of liver, colon, oral and esophageal cancer, according to The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Not only does coffee correlate with preventing cancer, it aids in the prevention of type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes. Recent studies have shown that the many mildly acidic compounds in coffee can help cells increase their glucose intake, decreasing blood glucose levels. Long-term diabetes prevention is correlated with lifelong decreased glucose levels.
But before coffee is deemed a cure-all beverage, the negative health outcomes must also be considered. This morning pick-me-up has hundreds of different acidic species that contribute to acid reflux disease or heartburn, and are associated with tooth enamel decay.
Coffee also contains four known carcinogens, albeit in small quantities, that have been shown to cause cancer in lab mice. The same quantities present in coffee have not suggested increased cancer incidences in mice.
More research is needed to have a conclusive picture of coffee’s full effects, but regardless of medicine, the bean itself has practical and less widely known uses.
In Costa Rica, coffee growers have experimented with coffee beans in ways unbeknownst to most consumers. At La Bella Tica organic coffee farm, Oldemar Salazar Picado uses the most traded food in the world to his advantage.
Instead of roasting his beans for either a medium or dark roast, the Salazars, in partnership with two other families, have been able to turn their harvests into household necessities. Oldemar’s daughter Gloriona has found how to extract oil from the bean to create perfume, soap and an organic lotion containing only honey, sugar and coffee bean extract.
In this way, the coffee tree has many uses for La Bella Tica. Gloriona continues to research the medicinal and cosmetic benefits of coffee, and is confident that further studies will open more doors for coffee drinkers worldwide.
Edited by: Holly Enowski, Liza Anderson and Brianna Stubler