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Good news for caffeine lovers

Egyptians cannot give up their caffeine, especially tea which accounts for 88 per cent of their consumption of hot beverages. Ahram Online sheds a light on the pros and cons of tea and coffee drinking

Ingy Deif, Wednesday 12 Jan 2011
Reuters photo

Egyptians can actually do without a lot of things that other nations consider necessary.  They are not even aware of many luxuries as taking care of their basic  needs to survive occupies their time.

Nevertheless, there are certain commodities that Egyptians cannot do without and puts them in the right 'mood' and on the right track.  They cannot give up on their caffeine intake, especially tea which accounts for almost 88 per cent of the consumption of hot beverages, with the famous "koshari" method of brewing tea widespread in the region of Upper Egypt, which turns the famous burgundy colour almost blackish.

Then there is coffee of which the Egyptian annual per capita consumption is 0.1 kg, according to statistics by the World Recourse Institute. Such a huge intake demands that we put the record straight, and weigh up the risks against the benefits of drinking tea and coffee.

Pros and Cons

Let's start with the bad news. A study conducted by Georgetown University and presented at the Annual Congress of the European League against Rheumatism in Rome 2010 shows that drinking tea raised the risks of rheumatoid arthritis in post-menopausal women by 40 per cent, and that the increase reached 78 per cent with those who drank more than four cups a day. Remarkably, filtered coffee did not have a similar effect.

"Assessing the tea ingredients can be quite tricky," says Dr Fawzi Elshobaki, a professor of nutrition at the National Research Centre.  "On one hand it contains the substance tannin, and upon meeting minerals in the body reacts with them making them non-absorbent. In the case of chelating with iron a person might become anaemic, with calcium it may cause osteoporosis, and it could affect the zinc mineral which is vital for growth and maintaining immunity. On the other hand, the catachin substance in tea is highly valuable in its anti-oxidizing properties, which can counter the effect of free radicals initiated in the body for various reasons."

Coffee loaded with benefits

In Egypt many people still prefer the traditional Turkish coffee, but the young generation tend to choose the less classical forms of instant coffee. Globally coffee comes after crude oil as the second–largest commodity worldwide and the most consumed functional commodity. In the United States alone there are 108 million coffee consumers. The good news is that research has proved that coffee is loaded with benefits, provided it is consumed in moderation (two servings a day). Coffee fans have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  This is becauseof antioxidants, including compounds like chlorogenic acid and tocopherol and minerals such as magnesium, all of which improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, both of which are key to preventing diabetes. Also it had been noted that coffee consumption on a regular basis decreases the probabilities of developing Parkinson's disease, colon cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and gallstones.

As for the caffeine in both coffee and tea, research has shown that it can do some good. It helps in treating asthma and headaches, and that is why it is easily found in over-the-counter painkillers. It also increases the body's ability to cope with physical exertion and sports. "Indeed caffeine had been proven to have benefits," agrees Elshobaki. "But we always advise against the body getting used to certain doses because the brain is naturally capable of releasing its own painkillers when required".

After decades of considering coffee and tea a major drawback o a healthy lifestyle,  things are finally  looking brighter for caffeine lovers, but again, provided that it's taken in moderation.

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