Coffee Perks? Pros and Cons of Caffeine

'Cup of Joe' can provide health benefits, health penalties

EAST STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- Many of us cannot bare the thought of trying to get through the day without coffee. But is that caffeine you're consuming in your "cup of Joe" good for you?    

Whether it's gourmet or just a good, old-fashioned regular brew, more than 80 percent of Americans consider themselves coffee drinkers. Certainly it can't be bad for us, right? Without jumping to conclusions, Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller looked into the possible perks of coffee.

Like many of us, Robert DePompe of Reeders has only one thing on his mind when he wakes up in the morning. "My first cup of coffee and then that starts my day." He can't imagine starting his day any other way. When asked what a day would be without coffee, Mr. DePompe laughed and said "pretty hard". He credits a fresh brew with giving him energy. "Coffee helps you get through, you know. It's good for you. I think it's good for you."

But is it really? Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono Dr. David Testa said, "There are, you know, pros and cons that people have heard over time." The pros start with the jolt caffeine causes. It's a brain stimulant that can help you combat fatigue. "We know that short term caffeine improves mental alertness, mental energy, ability to focus," said Dr. Testa.

That cup of Joe is also loaded with antioxidants that Dr. Testa said is linked to warding off certain diseases. "We may have decreased risks to Parkinson's Disease to Alzheimer's, Dementia." You can add reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart and liver disease and certain cancers, too. 

The downside is when, Dr. Testa said, your daily coffee habit exceeds more than a few cups or 400 milligrams of caffeine. It can trigger heart palpitations, increase anxiety and insomnia and cause heartburn. "More stomach upset, GI upset, reflux disease," the physician said.

Keep in mind if you're doing two or three cups of coffee a day and reaching your caffeine threshold, you might have other sources of caffeine coming into your diet that will put you over the top. That means keeping a cautious eye on things like soft drinks, tea and chocolate. "You can look at labels and decide that way," said Dr. Testa.

So what's the takeaway? The answer: moderation is key. Talk to your doctor if you're questioning how much coffee, or caffeine, is too much for you.


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