It’s pretty understandable why so many of us feel the need to start the day – or indeed, finish it – with a satisfying cup of coffee. Amid the rushes, stresses and strains of daily life today, we probably all feel the need for that kind of boost from time to time.
But could your routine caffeine fix also be compromising your other efforts to live healthily? In particular, much conversation has focused on the adverse effect that caffeine may have on the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Much of this centres on the mild diuretic effect that caffeine has – in other words, its tendency to cause the increased passing of urine. This, in turn, may lead to such water-soluble vitamins as B vitamins and vitamin C becoming depleted as a result of the associated fluid loss.
So, what do the studies say about such suggestions that coffee could interfere with your body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals?
Collaborative research published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, undertaken at Nebraska’s Creighton University and the University of Miami in Florida, found that caffeine may, indeed, impact on vitamin D absorption.
The study’s findings indicated that caffeine lessened the expression of vitamin D receptors on the body’s osteoblasts, which are the cells that secrete the substance of bone. This research also suggested correlation between the degree of interference with vitamin D absorption and the amount of caffeine in the body.
With vitamin D, in turn, key to the body’s absorption and use of calcium for building bone, the question has been raised as to whether too much caffeine could also decrease bone mineral density, thereby heightening a coffee drinker’s risk of osteoporosis.
All seven of the B vitamins – B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin) – are water-soluble vitamins. At least in theory, then, they could be susceptible to being depleted easily due to the drinking of caffeine.
Coffee also seems to impact on the metabolism of some B vitamins like thiamine. Vitamin B12, though, looks like being a possible exception – indeed, caffeine’s stimulation of stomach acid production may actually assist, instead of compromise, your body’s B12 absorption.
Vitamin C is another nutrient that it has been suggested isn’t the most natural bedfellow of caffeine, again thanks to the latter’s diuretic and stimulant properties.
In the case of the second of those qualities, coffee encourages muscle contractions along the digestive tract, which allows for the quicker elimination of waste. While that’s by no means necessarily a bad thing for keeping you regular, it does also run the risk of eliminating vitamins and minerals before your body has been able to fully absorb them.
So, is there an alternative option?
The good news is that on the basis of the research that has been done down the years, it seems the negative impact on vitamin absorption of coffee consumption is too modest to be of great concern to most otherwise healthy people.
If, however, you are worried about the amount of caffeine you drink potentially hampering your efforts to ensure the healthiest possible nutrient intake, you might consider ditching the most caffeinated drinks altogether, in favour of other food or drink that could give you a comparable boost.
The likes of green tea, dark chocolate, bananas, brown rice and even just good old water are all noted for the positive effects they can have on day-to-day energy and helping to combat fatigue. So, don’t assume coffee is the only option you have for putting a zip in your step on those otherwise grey and dispiriting Monday mornings!