Everyone has heard of green tea, but green coffee is relatively new to the health scene. With the focus on caffeine this last week and the risks when combined with a high fat meal I was happy to come across some new research which puts coffee in the good guy team again. Mind you it never was the coffee that was the problem – it was the 200mg of caffeine. And serious coffee drinkers can get up to 190mg per cup, let alone 2 cups or more.
But there are some other things about roasted coffee that are of interest to your health. As usual, nothing (well almost nothing) is ever black or white on the nutrition scene. Roasted coffee contains compounds called kahweol and cafestol. This turn out to be a mixed bag in regard to your body. Kahweol and Cafestol increase LDL cholesterol in the blood and also in the liver. LDL is the type of cholesterol that can give you heart problems if it becomes oxidized.
On the other hand, both of these compounds are antioxidants and have been associated with reductions in some cancers. If you use a paper coffee filter then both Kahweol and Cafestol get trapped in the paper and are filtered out of the brewed coffee. If you are at risk for cholesterol related problems then you will probably want to stick with the paper filtered coffee and get your antioxidants elsewhere. Green Coffee is the unroasted coffee bean and is the darling of health conscious foodies at the moment. Even starbucks got in on the act trialing some green coffee based beverages called ‘Refreshers’ last summer. They managed to come up with some flavored iced green coffee bean drinks which tasted nothing at all like coffee but provided the health benefits of antioxidants.
Well what exactly are these benefits. There is some evidence that green coffee is a powerful weight loss aid. There are studies which indicate that green coffee regulates insulin production, blocks fat absorption and increases metabolism. One study reports – rather bravely – that if you eat one kilo of food (2.2 pounds) for 14 days and that food contains 10 grams of green coffee bean extract then the weight you would have gained will be suppressed by 35%. What does this really mean in terms of weight loss? I don’t know that it means anything much at all – other than you will gain 35% less than what you would have if you had gained if you had eaten 1 kilo of food without the green coffee bean extract. And is this a kilo of chicken, chocolate or celery? If you eat a kilo of a high fat food then – good luck losing or maintaining weight. The test was on mice so I guess it probably wasn’t any of those foods. A Meta-analysis of weight loss and green coffee bean extract concludes that although results of research trials are promising the studies that were available for the analysis were poor and showed bias and were not rigorous enough to determine weight loss effects.
The research that has really got my attention is for the positive effects green coffee bean has on high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the things I am prone to, and want to avoid it like the plague and I thought you might like to know about it too. There are lots of reasons people get high blood pressure including the usual suspects: obesity, high salt intake, excess alcohol, smoking and genetics. Back when I was in my teen years and weighed less than 100# my blood pressure was 120/80. Today, that is considered prehypertensive and 115/75 is the golden number. Needless to say over the years my blood pressure has gone up along with my weight, and I am in the prehypertensive range but even closer to stage one hypertension.
Now high blood pressure doesn’t just put you at risk for stroke but also takes a great toll on your kidneys and can put people in renal failure requiring dialysis. Both of these possibilities are really scary. There is plenty we can do to try to prevent it with lifestyle measures, but this is one condition that I would take a pharmaceutical for if I needed to. Hopefully I will never have to. Chlorogenic acid is the compound in green coffee bean which is the compound that reduces blood pressure. It’s also the one that is thought to be responsible for the weight loss effects of green coffee bean. I tested my blood pressure today and it was 126 over 81. That’s pretty typical for me although it does go up and down a bit. I actually think I might give it a try based on the results of this study because the study concerning hypertension is rigorous. It was a double blind placebo controlled study which is the gold standard for research. One hundred and seventeen men with mildly elevated blood pressure were given the green coffee bean extract for one month in doses of 46mg, 93mg or 185mg per day. The groups that got the 93mg or the 185mg significant improvements in blood pressure compared to the men that were given a placebo and those that got the higher dose also got the best results. In addition to the study being double blind placebo controlled, the fact that the results were dose dependent also increases the likelihood that the results of the study was due to green coffee bean extract and not because of another factor.
So where do you find green coffee bean? Apparently it’s in health food stores and major supermarkets. I guess I’ll have to look a bit harder because I’ve never seen it in my little rural neck of the woods. But there is plenty online so it won’t be a problem to find it. You can get the whole bean everywhere, but the powdered bean seems much harder to come by. There is no problem finding the green coffee bean extract. People who buy green coffee bean intact are generally coffee connoisseurs and roast it at home. But if you want to actually drink green coffee it’s a bit more difficult than buying the beans and grinding them. The beans are rock hard. From what I’ve read, it’s not really possible to grind the beans because the coffee grinder won’t take it. One barista commented that a $1000 grinder would last about a week! And even if you did manage to grind it, you would be disappointed with the flavor. It’s not like the real stuff; you need to know that going in or you are going to be mightily disappointed. Green coffee lacks the aroma of roasted coffee and also has a slightly more bitter taste. Given the difficulties of grinding it seems better to opt for the extracts or the powder if you do manage to get it. The powder has about 3 times the antioxidants of green tea and is mixed with hot water and sugar and milk. Ewww….. I think I’ll stick to my white tea for now at least (with my one cup of paper filtered coffee in the morning). Coffee with sugar and milk is defiantly not my thing. If you REALLY want to try green coffee beans as a drink, the only powder I found was as a weight loss drink mixed with other weight loss herbs. And it was about $3.70 a cup! Again as with any supplement if you have a medical condition let your doc know you are taking it.
The use of green coffee extract as a weight loss supplement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Onakpoya I, Terry R, Ernst E. Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT, UK