Posted on 10 March 2011.
Is coffee good or bad for men’s health? A recent study suggests that coffee and caffeine may be safe (for now) in regards to prostate cancer, but components within coffee can negatively affect men who have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
For men who have BPH, drinking coffee can be detrimental because caffeine can stimulate an already overactive bladder, which means it can increase urinary frequency and urgency and may even result in urge incontinence. Caffeine acts on the bladder in several ways. First, it increases how fast the bladder fills up by increasing the rate of urine production. Second, caffeine enhances the sensation and contractility of the bladder, thus making the organ feel a potentially erroneous urge to empty.
Caffeine can also irritate the bladder because it is a theoxanthine, which is a family of drugs that includes theobromine (found in chocolate) and theophylline (found in tea). Theophylline also stimulates and irritates the bladder; however, tea contains half as much caffeine as coffee does, and green tea specifically contains even less.
The impacts of coffee on prostate cancer have piqued the interests of researchers worldwide. According to recent research conducted by Dr. Chang-Hae Park from the National Cancer Center in South Korea, there is no association between prostate cancer and drinking coffee, but there is still some controversy. Park and his team evaluated the results of 12 studies that compared coffee intake and prostate cancer risk. Eight of the studies were case-control studies and four were cohort studies.
The controversial part is that although the investigators found a significant harmful association between coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk in seven of the eight case-control studies, they also explained that the studies had severe limitations that affected the outcomes. None of the cohort studies showed any significant association between coffee consumption and prostate cancer. Therefore, while Park and his team reported there is no evidence that coffee consumption has an effect on prostate cancer, further prospective cohort studies are needed.
The journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research published a study in 2009 in which researchers evaluated the impact of coffee and tea on prostate health. The investigators’ results showed that no apparent relationship with prostate cancer existed; however, the evidence from animal and in vitro studies suggested that tea, especially green tea, is a healthier choice than coffee for prostate health.
A study at Umea University in Sweden analyzed the effects of both filtered and boiled coffee on the incident of cancer. From a study population of more than 64,000, there were 3,034 cases of cancer, with up to 15 years of follow-up. The investigators did not find an association between consumption of filtered or boiled coffee and all types of cancer combined, or for prostate or colorectal cancer in particular.
Another large study conducted by Harvard evaluated 50,000 men. Researchers used data from the Health professionals’ follow-up study to determine if there was an association between the consumption of regular and decaffeinated coffee and prostate cancer. The investigators found that over two decades, 4,975 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed. According to Kathryn Wilson, Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, she and her team “specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancers or high-grade vs. low-grade cancer.” They found that men who had the highest intake of coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of advanced prostate cancer. Wilson noted: “Our results do suggest there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer.”
Coffee and caffeine have an impact on other aspects of your health outside of prostate health. Some studies suggest that consuming coffee and caffeine is associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases. One study published in Cancer Causes & Control in January 2011 found that drinking three or more cups of coffee daily was associated with a 44 percent reduced risk of developing liver cancer in a group of older Chinese adults.
In addition, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported the results of a recent review study that explored a relationship between coffee and dementia. The investigators concluded that coffee drinking may be associated with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
But despite these positive studies, a combination of coffee, caffeine, and stress can be very unhealthy. Here are some reasons why these three don’t always mix well.
- Coffee raises stress hormone levels. Elevated levels of stress hormones, including norepinephrine and especially cortisol, are responsible for raising heart rate and blood pressure. When you combine coffee/caffeine with stress, you place your stress hormones on high alert, which in turn puts your heart rate and blood pressure in unhealthy states as well. Elevated stress hormones also weaken your immune system. If you reduce your coffee/caffeine consumption, you will lower your stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, and help preserve your immune system health.
- Coffee contributes to weight gain. The higher cortisol levels associated with coffee consumption are also linked to insulin resistance, increased appetite, and cravings for fatty foods. High cortisol levels can also contribute to fat deposits in the abdomen, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Coffee plus stress may equal heart attack. Coffee consumption can increase stress, which is a known risk factor for heart attack, heart palpitations, and elevated homocysteine, another risk factor for heart disease. If you are stressed, coffee is not a health beverage for your heart.
- Stress and coffee affect the brain. Stress has a detrimental effect on the parts of the brain responsible for planning, decision making, and reasoning. When you add caffeine, your mental abilities, mood, and memory can suffer, because caffeine interferes with blood flow to the brain. To keep mentally sharp, reduce your use of coffee and caffeine.
- Stress and coffee disrupt sleep. Stress and worry can keep you awake, and the stimulating effects of caffeine can disrupt your ability to sleep. If you eliminate coffee, you may regain the ability to sleep.
- Stress and coffee irritate your GI tract. Coffee and caffeine are highly acidic, which can increase the risk of heartburn, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome. Reduce your coffee intake, and reduce your risk of these gastrointestinal problems.
An occasional cup of coffee will not likely have a negative effect on prostate health or your overall health. But if you have BPH, coffee consumption should be limited. If you want to enhance prostate health and general well-being, however, the better choice is green tea.