Often in the treatment room, we get to a discussion about caffeine and coffee. Is it good? Is it bad? The answer is… it depends. For the best answer you may want to consider more than one source of information: scientific research, your personal genome, and your personal experience with high caffeine containing beverages.  From now on, I am going to exclusively talk about coffee. Let’s compare the caffeine content in a 16oz (grande) serving of 3 beverages at Starbucks to see why:

  • Starbucks brewed coffee (grande)= 260mg
  • Starbucks English Breakfast tea (grande) = 40mg
  • Starbucks Chine Green Tips tea (grande) = 45mg

As you can see, coffee is 6 times the amount of caffeine as most teas.  Unless you are drinking massive quantities of tea, you will have a hard time getting excessive caffeine from tea.  That said, some of you will discover that even the caffeine in tea makes you feel worse not better. If this is you, then find a nice herbal you enjoy.  As for sodas and energy drinks, we all know there is no reason to be putting this stuff into our bodies.  If you enjoy sodas you can work on reducing them until they become a rare treat.  It is not all or nothing.  All improvement is going to leave you feeling better even if you are not a t-totaler!

Scientific Research

When you read news articles about new scientific research on coffee, you will see lots of encouraging news about all sorts of health benefits seen in coffee drinkers. Most all of these studies show that when we poll random people about their health and their coffee consumption, we find that coffee drinkers have less incidence of all sorts of chronic disease from some (but not all) cancers to heart disease.  We know that coffee is very rich in antioxidants and may reduce inflammation.  This is encouraging, but don’t rush for the extra cup of joe just yet. The important thing to remember is that these studies look at populations of people who do or do not consume coffee and try to control for other variables that may be affecting their health outcomes. For example, perhaps coffee drinkers are also more likely to exercise and eat well.  There is a danger of giving the coffee credit when actually it is the exercise creating the better health outcomes.  The obvious factors like exercise should be controlled for, but there are an infinite number of variables that effect the outcomes. It is impossible to predict and control for them all.  This is why population (epidemiological) studies are considered the least reliable for proving a causal relationship.   None the less this in encouraging news for coffee lovers.

Your Personal Genome
Now that we have access to our personal genetic code via services like 23andme. You can have access to your raw genetic data that can then be interpreted via 3rd party sites like Athelitigen.  23andme provides all sorts of information about your genes, but most of it is difficult to interpret without help from a doctor or a genetic counselor interpreting.  23andme cannot even accept sample from the state of New York.  I got around this by mailing my sample from Vermont.

There is a very cool report on 23andme that shows if you are likely a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer.  If you are fast it means that caffeine works it way through your system quickly and probably affects you less.  If you are a slow metabolizer, it means that caffeine stays with you longer and feels stronger.

What’s right for you?

If you are looking for antioxidants, there are lots of places to get those without the excessive stimulation of coffee.   Maybe you know that you are a fast caffeine metabolizer.  Maybe you have even confirmed it with 23andme.  If you are certain that caffeine just doesn’t affect you negatively, then I’m certainly not going to be the one to tell you to pass on the pour over.  I did spend some pretty formative years living in Seattle after all.  If you however suspect that coffee is making you a little “edgy” or anxious, you may want to give it a rest. In our clinical practice, we find that giving up coffee almost always reduces pain levels and improves anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, period pain, PMS, insomnia and infertility.  If you experience any of these symptoms, give coffee a break for a while and see what improves.   …and don’t forget to taper down to reduce withdrawal symptoms.  Ouch!