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Health effects of coffee
The health effects of coffee have been studied to determine how coffee drinking affects humans. Coffee contains several compounds which are known to affect human body chemistry. The coffee bean itself contains chemicals which are mild psychotropics for humans as a defense mechanism of the Coffeacute plant. These chemicals are toxic in large doses, or even in their normal amount when consumed by many creatures which may otherwise have threatened the beans in the wild. Coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulant.
Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to its caffeine content. Coffee contains a currently unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.
For occasions when one wants to enjoy the flavor of coffee with almost no stimulation, decaffeinated coffee (also called decaf) is available. This is coffee from which most of the caffeine has been removed, by the Swiss water process (which involves the soaking of raw beans to remove the caffeine) or the use of a chemical solvent such as trichloroethylene ("tri"), or the more popular methylene chloride, in a similar process. Another solvent used is ethyl acetate; the resultant decaffeinated coffee is marketed as "natural decaf" because ethyl acetate is naturally present in fruit. Extraction withsupercritical carbon dioxide has also been employed.
Decaffeinated coffee usually loses some flavor compared to normal coffee. There are also coffee alternatives that resemble coffee in taste but contain no caffeine (see below). These are available both in ground form for brewing and in instant form.
Several studies comparing moderate coffee drinkers (defined as 3–5 cups per day) with light coffee drinkers (defined as 0–2 cups per day) found that those who drank more coffee were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. A longitudinal study in 2009 found that moderate coffee drinkers had reduced risk of developing dementia in addition to Alzheimer's disease.
Drinking caffeinated coffee has been correlated with a lower incidence of gallstones and gallbladder disease in both men and women in two studies performed by the Harvard School of Public Health. A lessened risk was not seen in those who drank decaffeinated coffee. A recent study showed that roast coffee protected primary neuronal cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced cell death.
A study comparing heavy coffee drinkers (3.5 cups a day) with non-drinkers found that the coffee drinkers were significantly less likely to develop Parkinson's disease later in life. Likewise, a second study found an inverse relationship between the amount of coffee regularly drank and the likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease.
Likewise, in tests of simple reaction time, choice reaction time, incidental verbal memory, and visuospatial reasoning, participants who regularly drank coffee were found to perform better on all tests, with a positive relationship between test scores and the amount of coffee regularly drunk. Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect associated with regular coffee drinking. Another study found that women over the age of 80 performed significantly better on cognitive tests if they had regularly drunk coffee over their lifetimes.
Coffee contains caffeine, which increases the effectiveness of pain killers, especially migraine and headache medications. For this reason, many over-the-counter headache drugs include caffeine in their formula.
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