The effects of coffee on health constitute a tremendous controversy. One
expert advocates coffee consumption and another completely opposes it.
Confusion is understandable. Recent interviews of centenarians revealed
that each one consumed coffee starting at a young age. Scientific data, on
the other hand, has linked the overindulgence of coffee to endocrine disturbances,
primarily those associated with impaired androgen activity in
men. In these studies, it was shown that avid coffee consumption could
actually affect sperm count and testosterone secretion. More recent studies
demonstrate, however, that sperm count isn’t affected but sperm quality
is. Motility of sperm might be enhanced by caffeine, but the sperm’s ability
to fertilize is reduced (49, 50).
Lower testosterone levels in men and higher estrogen potential in
women are also somehow coffee-related (51). Increased sex-hormone binding
globulin (SHBG) levels and associated higher risks of breast cancer,
endometriosis, and fibrocystic breast disease in female coffee drinkers
have been identified in these studies. Higher SHBG levels, as we’ve seen,
are connected to elevated estrogen activity in the body. Studies indicate
increased cortisol production with coffee consumption, which might nominally
reduce testosterone production (52). However, very little research points
to significantly compromised testosterone levels due to coffee consumption.
There might be an explanation for the hormone and sperm anomalies that
has little to do with caffeine.
The University of Guelph in Ontario recently released new findings on
coffee. This novel research identifies coffee as a contributor to the high
rate of insulin resistance plaguing society. The study revealed that two
cups of coffee consumed after a high-glycemic-index meal can induce
insulin resistance to prolong the clearance of blood sugar (53). If these
findings prove conclusive, the ill effects of coffee might include significant
heightening of oxidative stress, promotion of insulin resistance, interference
of hormone synthesis, and an increased risk of most of our epidemic diseases.
But what explains the apparent resistance of those coffee-indulgent centenarians
to these new coffee-related disorders? Once again, as we’ll see,
the explanation can be found in how we grow our food and how we treat
our environment today in comparison to what these centenarians experienced
when they were younger.
The cultivation of coffee and cocoa beans takes place primarily in
countries where spraying with toxic pesticides is poorly, if at all, regulated.
The biological consequences of organochloride and organophosphate
pesticides have been clear for decades, yet the agricultural bottom line
still prevails over human health. Organophosphates are powerful neurotoxins.
In fact, their original design was intended for chemical warfare
as nerve gas.
In small doses organophosphates are effective killers of crop-destructive
pests. Agricultural experts claim that this minuscule exposure doesn’t
damage the human biological system. But organophosphates aren’t just in
our food. They’re sprayed in backyard flower and vegetable gardens, and
in lumberyards to protect lumber from infestation.
Organophosphates are employed profusely in many countries that
Canada and the United States import food from—coffee and cocoa bean
producers included. Small but frequent neurotoxin exposure can accumulate
to impose significant consequences. If you’re a big coffee drinker, you’re
simply further concentrating your exposure to environmental- and foodborne
toxicity. Ironically the Type II diabetic state impairs the natural
enzyme system that protects us from incoming organophosphates (54).
We can tolerate minute quantities of this neurotoxic compound, but not
when our specialized enzyme systems are damaged. Adding this toxicity
to a body that has difficulty detoxifying increases the danger of disease;
however, if the metabolism were functional, this small exposure could be
neutralized with ease.
Diabetes insipidus (a kidney/water-regulatory disorder that induces
uncontrollable thirst) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar possibly due
to insulin resistance) can be attributed to organophosphates, as well. This
toxicity is also associated with glucose in the urine. These symptoms point
to kidney and pancreatic damage (55, 56). Organophosphate-induced
hyperglycemia/insulin inefficiency might be the real cause for the findings
at the University of Guelph. However, we don’t know if the Guelph study
used organically grown coffee that was confirmed to be organophosphateor
Organophosphates and organochlorides interrupt the endocrine system,
impairing androgenic activity and facilitating estrogenic activity in the
body. Organophosphate toxicity escalates cortisol levels, impairs thyroid
output, and lowers follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) secretions from the
pituitary gland. The last-mentioned endocrine influence hampers sperm
production and ovulation—in other words, fertility (57). Studies have
revealed that some women today reach childbearing maturity earlier than
ever before. That doesn’t imply that the sole cause of this premature maturation
is estrogenic toxicity from the environment. Today’s better nutrition
and advanced health care contribute to a more rapid development toward
biological maturity to prepare women for childbearing sooner. However,
other indicators demonstrate that environmental toxicity with these estrogenic
compounds is a major factor in the development of associated diseases
such as a high rate of breast and endometrial cancer and general endocrine
imbalances in both men and women.
The cognitive implications of organophosphate and organochloride
exposure are obvious. These chemicals stimulate neurons to death. The
doses we’re subject to today won’t kill us immediately, but long-term exposure
is significant. Cognitive disorders such as ADHD are likely consequences of
many factors, including these pest poisons, as are other common neurological
diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Elimination of just
one of these contributing factors can give the body the break it needs to
deal with the damage or at least cope longer.
Organophosphates damage neuron function in many ways to induce
immediate cell death, and with low-level intoxication they initiate interference
that can have long-lasting secondary consequences such as cognitive
deficits (58, 59, 60, 61). In addition to displaying anti-cholinesterase activity
(intense neuron firing), there is evidence that other neurological proteins
are affected by these chemicals.
Studies of Mexican communities such as Tescopaco confirm that these
facts are much more than probable. A study done by Elizabeth Gillette et
al in 1994 confirmed the dangers of unregulated pesticide use. The rich
soils of the Mexican Yaqui Valley seeded a successful farming community
that proliferates today. Pesticide application here has become profuse and
unregulated. In 1998 the results of the Gillette study were published in a
The valley’s population experienced twice the birth defects and infant
deaths of communities in the immediate outskirts. The valley girls’ breast
development was well under way at age seven—equivalent to young girls
of age 12 in the outskirts. Breast development is estrogen-dependent (62).
The same study revealed that the young men of the valley were physically
immature for their age, with problems that included the late development
The Gillette findings reveal that exposure to these toxins with the
intensity that the Mexican locals experienced can have horrific consequences.
North Americans might not be exposed to the degree that these
Mexican communities are, but the small, frequent, multiple increments
we receive from a variety of sources do reach considerable levels. For an
infant or child this can lead to severe immediate consequences and
repercussions that might appear later in life when compounded by other
The solution to the coffee problem, if you must indulge in the beverage,
is to choose organic, freshly ground beans. Drink one cup before
exercise to facilitate the burning of fat as an energy source during
activity, sparing muscle glycogen and saving muscle from catabolism.
A cup of coffee with a meal can improve dietary-induced thermogenesis
(DIT), assisting the oxidation or “burning” of excess dietary fat (63).
Caffeine also reduces the threshold for endorphin secretion, enhancing
pain tolerance and performance potential (64). Moreover, the stimulant
appears to increase lipolysis or fat breakdown independent of a meal
(65). These coffee facts shed light on the value of eating organic as
much as possible.
Other factors contribute to the effects of caffeine in the body today
that might not have been issues in the past. Contraceptive pills can boost
the half-life of caffeine, and estrogen-replacement therapy in postmenopausal
women enhances caffeine’s stimulatory influence to the
point where in some individuals its consumption becomes intolerable
(66). Cimetidine, a common drug employed to combat excess stomach acid
secretions, also interferes with the clearance of caffeine from blood
(67). If you take these drugs, you might have noticed a newly developed
sensitivity to coffee or caffeine-rich teas. Interestingly the amplified
sensitivity and the likely increment of free fatty-acid mobilization
that this factor might induce could possibly contribute to the risk of