What do you reach for first thing in the morning? Your phone, of course, but after that? Coffee! That’s right.

Imagine the smell of coffee and that bitter, but on top of all, sweet taste that wakes you up in the morning, and turns your brain on. It’s like coffee is the alternative name for a wonderful and productive day. OK, enough with the small talk. Let’s talk science!

Firstly, I want you to watch this 2-minute-video, and remember some of ‘the health benefits’ so we could discuss those in the text below.

The first thing we should talk about is the chemical composition of a cup of coffee. The main ingredient is, of course, water (98-99%), because it’s a super solvent, leaching flavors, and oils out of the coffee bean. And the rest are soluble plant matter.

The second and most famous is caffeine. It is an alkaloid plant toxin, a bug killer, that stimulates us by blocking neuroreceptors for the sleep chemical adenosine. Caffeine can have both positive and negative health effects. 

Usefulness of this substance takes place in persons who suffer from low blood pressure, for the reason that caffeine has diuretic properties*. It also helps in the treatment of depression and Parkinson’s disease by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which improves neural activity leading to a better mood and motor function. High caffeine levels in your blood lower the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, consuming too much of caffeine might cause insomnia and caffeine tolerance. Caffeine tolerance is different to caffeine sensitivity. Tolerance is acquired over time, while caffeine sensitivity refers to one’s genetic predisposition to processing the caffeine molecule. Do not misplace those two.

Another less known alkaloid that shadows in the light of caffeine is that of trigonelline. During roasting trigonelline partially degrades to produce two important compounds – pyridines and nicotinic acid, also known as vitamin B3 (niacin).

  • Pyridines are heterocyclic compounds which play an important role in the flavor and are responsible for producing the sweet-caramel-earthy like aromas commonly found in coffee.
  • Niacin is produced by the demethylation of trigonelline at temperatures above 160°C-230°C where approximately 85% is decomposed. Interestingly, coffee has been found to provide 10-40mg of niacin per 100g of coffee. Alternatively said, two or three espressos can provide half your recommended daily allowance.

research, published in 2009 in Journal of Conservative Dentistry, suggests that trigonelline from coffee may be responsible for the coffee′s antiadhesive activity, meaning that it keeps our teeth clean. It turns out that drinking black coffee may not only keep the doctor away but the dentist as well.

Another healthy chemical found in coffee is quinic acid. It gives coffee its slightly sour flavor. On the plus side, it’s one of the starter chemicals in the formulation of Tamiflu (an oral antiviral drug that attacks the influenza virus and prevents it spreading inside the body). In addition, it turns out that quinic acid induces antioxidant metabolism. The next paragraph is actually a piece of the abstract, fully copied from this research, that describes the function of quinic acids once they enter our bodies.

“For over 50 years, hippuric/quinic acids were believed to have no biological efficacy. Here data are presented to support the hypothesis that quinic acid is not responsible for any efficacy, but rather that quinic acid nutritionally supports the synthesis of tryptophan and nicotinamide in the gastrointestinal tract, and that this, in turn, leads to DNA repair enhancement and NF-kB** inhibition via increased nicotinamide and tryptophan production.”

In conclusion, coffee does lower the risk of getting cancer and also protects you from catching flu. Plus, it keeps your teeth clean. You can now sit back and enjoy a warm cup of coffee, knowing that it will keep you healthy and cheerful. And remember, this article is about black coffee. When you add milk and/or cream, then it’s a whole new story meant for a new blog post!

*A diuretic is any substance that promotes the production of urine by the kidney.
**NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells) is a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival. NF-κB is found in almost all animal cell types, and it is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, cytokines, free radicals, heavy metals, ultraviolet irradiation, oxidized LDL, and bacterial or viral antigens.