Coffee & Antioxidants

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Well, what are free radicals then? Free radicals are compounds found in the body that, if their levels get too high, can cause various illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

The Science

Coffee actually shows more antioxidant activity than both green tea and cocoa; two sources known for their high antioxidant content. In fact, unroasted (green) coffee beans are home to some 1000 different antioxidants.
Incredibly, several major worldwide studies have revealed that coffee plays an important part in our dietary antioxidant intake. These studies have revealed that coffee has a protective effect on the human body when it comes to guarding against the risk of some age-related chronic diseases and oxidative stress-related illnesses. Some studies even suggest that coffee actually increases our capability to store more antioxidants in our plasma. This, of course, is great news since plasma is the part of our blood that carries import stuff like nutrients, hormones, proteins and, not forgetting, antioxidants to parts of the body that need them.

Perhaps one of the most significant health benefits of drinking coffee is the reduced risk of type two diabetes. A trend had been seen over the past decade that saw more cases of type two diabetes with lower coffee consumption versus lesser cases of type two diabetes with higher rates of coffee consumption.
Countries noted for the highest coffee contribution of increased antioxidant capacity is seen in Norway, Italy, Spain, Poland, Japan and the USA. All big coffee drinking nations! 

Other potential positive health benefits of coffee drinking also relate to heart diseases, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. It is believed, in the scientific world, that coffee may reduce the risk of these illnesses and others by positively impacting inflammation, insulin sensitivity and depression. It's probably worth noting that it's not just down to the antioxidants in the coffee but also some other coffee compounds.  

Coffee Origin & Processing

Things like coffee processing, environmental growing conditions and the origin of the coffee bean all affect the chemical makeup of the bean and, therefore, its antioxidant capacity. Most antioxidant compounds actually resist the roasting process which means they are present in your cup of coffee whereas other antioxidant compounds actually form during the roasting process. Ironically, what this means is that although many important antioxidant compounds are lost with increasing roast duration, other antioxidant compounds are created as roasting during goes on. Generally speaking, however, the darker the roast, the greater amount of antioxidant content is lost.

Other things that can result in varying antioxidant levels in your coffee include brewing method, roast level and country of origin. Check back for the next post in the antioxidant series.

Source: Coffee: Consumption & Health Implications