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Coffee drinkers curious about health benefits, online searches skyrocket 650%

March 31, 2022
Food & Drink

Global online searches for “health benefits of drinking coffee” increased by 650% over the last 12 months, according to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) analysis. The majority of the searches were health-related, including nutritional values, caffeine content and the link between coffee and dementia.

The analysis determines that people are curious about the health benefits associated with drinking coffee. The term “benefits of black coffee” increased by 1,450% over the same period. A pan-European survey commissioned by ISIC also indicated changing habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 42% of coffee-drinkers surveyed increasing their intake during lockdown and associated restrictions.

“The research reveals a lot about public interest in the health benefits known about coffee. As a result of the pandemic, some people are becoming increasingly conscious about what they eat and drink, and proactive in learning about its effects on their health,” Dr. J.W. Langer, medical doctor, lecturer and science journalist tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“Interestingly, the data indicates that consumers are most curious about coffee’s link with health topics such as nutrition, high blood pressure and dementia,” he says.

The top ten topics of interest range from caffeine intake levels, nutritional value and associations between coffee and common health areas. Searches related to “coffee and caffeine” were often entered where the amount of caffeine in a cup was investigated.

Digital analytics laps up the figures
The analysis was completed using a range of Google tools such as Analytics, Search Console, Trends and Keyword Planner. ISIC analyzed the data with the aim of better understanding current public knowledge levels and addressing any information needs on science and health research related to coffee and caffeine.

Langer explains: “Recently, there have been a number of studies suggesting that drinking coffee in moderation can be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle, helping to reduce the risk of a number of conditions such as heart and liver disease, and potentially reducing the risk of stroke and dementia.”

“The evidence suggests that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day is associated with a reduced risk of a number of conditions. Decaffeinated coffee shows similar results in some, but not all, conditions,” he says.

About 32% also said they tended to drink coffee at regular intervals to break up the day at home or when they could relax, and 35% of coffee drinkers said they now appreciated their coffee breaks more.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports that moderate caffeine consumption, around 400 mg of caffeine a day, or up to five cups, can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Caffeine concentration in every cup
Caffeine is a key component in coffee, constituting between 75 to 100 mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee. EFSA deduced that a “cause and effect relationship” exists between a 75 mg serving of caffeine and increased attention (concentration) and alertness. For example, this can be beneficial in safety and performance situations during night shifts or nighttime driving and coping with jet lag.

“Some individuals may be more sensitive to caffeine and may need to ensure their intakes match their personal situation, for instance those who find that drinking coffee later in the day affects their ability to sleep may choose to avoid coffee in the afternoon and evening,” explains Langer.

“Equally, some may want to be mindful of the nutritional aspects of additions such as milk or cream, and sweeteners such as honey or sugar,” he says.

Black coffee contains many micronutrients, notably potassium, magnesium and niacin. Coffee contains about 2 kcal for every 100ml. Adding milk, cream or sugar to coffee will increase the calorie concentration.

Coffee consists of about 95% water and can, therefore, contribute to the overall fluid intake when drunk in moderation. Despite significant interest in an association between coffee and dehydration, research suggests moderate consumption contributes to fluid intake.

Langer observes: “As a coffee drinker myself, it is great to see research suggest promising health benefits from moderate coffee drinking. I never encourage my patients to drink coffee solely on the basis of improving health or reducing risks.”

“They should primarily enjoy their cup of coffee because they wish to and like the taste. We should consider the reported health benefits as add-ons. Hopefully this analysis encourages more scientists to further study the mechanisms, modes of action and potential effects of one of the world’s most consumed beverages,” he says.

In other coffee-related news, the price of coffee beans doubled in 2021 partly due to record freight costs and extreme weather events in Brazil. Coffee producers will have to adapt to ensure that the demand is met.

Health claims associated with coffee
Associations between coffee consumption and Alzheimer’s proved significant in the experiment. Research suggests that lifelong regular consumption of coffee may have a protective effect concerning cognitive decline and neurodegenerative conditions, ISIC reports. Future research will further help understand these associations.

Blood pressure associations were also observed in the analysis. While the exact nature of the relationship between coffee and blood pressure is unclear, research in this area suggests that overall coffee consumption is not associated with an increased risk of hypertension.

Another study using 365,682 participants from the UK Biobank found that moderate consumption of coffee and tea separately or in combination were associated with lower risk of stroke and dementia.

Recent research presented a mixed picture of the health credentials of coffee. While a UK study from Anglia Ruskin University linked higher coffee consumption to lower body fat for women, researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) discovered that too much coffee can increase the risk of osteoarthritis, arthropathy (joint disease) and obesity.

By Inga de Jong


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