According to the Word of Wisdom, we are told, “hot drinks are not for the body or belly.” We were later told by our Prophets that “hot drinks” are to mean tea and coffee. Have you ever wondered why? In our modern age, we easily recognize the reason why tobacco is bad for us, and the deaths resulting from alcohol and drugs are on the rise. So why not Coffee?
This article is going to try and take an objective view of the benefits and drawbacks of coffee. Let me be clear here and now, I promote completely the word of the Prophets. They have told us to abstain from coffee. I encourage each and every one of us to do so.
What I want to do is really show how controversial the opinions of the experts are. There is a lot of data on scientific studies done on coffee-drinkers. Maybe too much, in fact. They seem to say that coffee is good and bad for you at the same time. I will express more of my personal opinion at the end of this article, but until then, let’s list off the benefits and then the drawbacks of coffee.
The Benefits of Coffee
These benefits are based on research I tried to gather from the best sources. They are based on scientifical and secular sources. As mentioned before, they do not reflect my personal opinion or that of the Church.
Improved Physical Exercise
This benefit seems rather obvious. Coffee has caffeine, a stimulant, in it which undoubtedly contributes to enhanced physical exercise. This benefit is only linked to short term exercise. I have found no data in any studies about long-lasting exercise or long term exercise programs. If there are any studies you find, please share them in the comments below.
The improvement in physical ability can be attributed to the stimulating caffeine which quickens your pulse, arouses your senses, and blocks adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a hormone the body produces to induce sleep and relaxation. Caffeine also increases stress. All of this should combine to create a better physical performance overall.
May Reduce Risk Of Stroke
This is linked back to a study that was done to see if coffee made stroke more likely. It doesn’t, and the results indicated that it may reduce the risk of stroke. The wording in the end of this study’s abstract said: “may reduce the risk of stroke.” I would say that what they’ve found may be probable, but we should probably look for a better-defined study.
Similar to this study, there were other studies done that say that the risk of heart disease is also lessened. As far as I have seen, the reasons for why the experts say this are still being validated.
Lowers Risk of Prostate Cancer
This study shows that lethal prostate cancer risk is lowered by heavy coffee drinking. The study claims that it is attributed to non-caffeine related aspects of the coffee. It did not explain why.
Coffee Suppresses Hunger
According to this study, coffee has specific chemicals that suppress ghrelin and leptin (hormones that deal with hunger) and promote PYY (a hormone that deals with being full). I think that this contributes to the lower risk of obesity and lower risk of diabetes II that coffee also promotes. If you eat less, you have less of a chance of acquiring eating-related problems.
Those weren’t all of the benefits, but the biggest as far as I could see and the most studied. Now let’s talk about its drawbacks.
The Drawbacks of Coffee
As before, I tried to find scientifically researched sources for these drawbacks. Many of them relate to the caffeine in coffee, but some are coffee specific.
Physical Training Is Not Helped
This study explains that while physical activity is improved by caffeine, there is no noticeable effect from even caffeinated coffee. Athletes must train with pure caffeine to see any results. There is also something to be said about the tendency to build up a tolerance to caffeine, thereby diminishing its effects.
Does Not Help Prostate Cancer
According to this article, there is no specific link between the risk of prostate cancer and coffee drinking, despite what other researchers have said to the contrary. It can put an un-needed strain on your bladder though.
This article explains that, since caffeine is a stimulant, you are more likely to be stressed when drinking your morning brew. There are some therapists, in fact, that attribute the panic attacks of some of their patients to caffeine consumption. They say that to be less stressed, avoid that 3 o’clock pick me up.
There’s a reason so many people can’t survive without their cup of joe. This article says that even one cup a day can create a dependence. Most people go through withdrawal when they try to give up coffee with symptoms such as headaches, loss of focus, and general tiredness.
Those are the drawbacks, but not all of them. If you find more, please share them below. Now let’s think about it critically.
After doing this research, I don’t think we know secularly whether coffee is good or bad. I believe that the Lord has told us to avoid coffee because there are harmful effects we haven’t noticed or been able to measure yet. A lot of the research was very contradictive. It says it both helps prostate cancer and it doesn’t. I think that as with so many other rituals and lifestyle choices in our lives that to really single out coffee’s long term effects is very difficult.
I want to share some of the research I did on lds.org. This will help explain that, as a Church, we don’t know why the Lord has asked us to abstain from coffee, other than He did and He knows better than we do. In the end, it really comes down to that. Medical studies can change from year to year. The edicts of God change only based on God’s choice (wanting the best for us), and some never do change.
The Opinion Of Prophets
If you don’t think avoiding coffee is a big deal, let me remind you that in 1851 President Brigham Young proposed to the whole church to accept the Word of Wisdom under covenant. That’s a big deal.
President George Albert Smith, a man who had his own faith-promoting experience regarding the avoidance of coffee, once said:
“President George Albert Smith once gave this advice: “If you cross to the devil’s side of the line one inch, you are in the tempter’s power, and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly, because you will have lost the spirit of the Lord.”
The Lord has drawn His line. Coffee may be one of those things that the devil uses to dull the spiritual senses of the Children of God to eventually lead them deeper into his power.
President Boyd K. Packer once said:
“I found in the Word of Wisdom a principle with a promise. The principle: Care for your body; avoid habit-forming stimulants, tea, coffee, tobacco, liquor, and drugs (see D&C 89:3–9). Such addictive things do little more than relieve a craving which they caused in the first place.”
When God gives promises He fulfills them. By avoiding these substances, we avoid dependencies, even those that are so subtle as to be called daily habits.
When it comes down to it, there is really only one source that should be our first resource. We can pray to God and know by His Spirit the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5). Secular information rolls along at a sluggish speed in comparison with God’s revealed guidance. We accept all correct and virtuous information from all good sources. The problem is when we just don’t know.
According to my research, coffee is one of those things where we just don’t know why. But I can guarantee you that we can all know if it really should be avoided. I do know. I challenge each and every one of us to kneel in humble prayer, and with real intent, ask God whether this is one of His commandments. He will answer. I promise.
Feel free to share your success stories, any more research you’ve done, or questions you have.