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The Advantages of Quitting Coffee

By Molly Rose

You might want to rethink your daily coffee habit. Coffee can increase blood pressure; raise cholesterol levels, depending on the type of coffee you're drinking; and contribute to energy spikes and crashes, particularly among those who are most sensitive to caffeine. Quitting the drink entirely offers a host of advantages -- just don't try to do it cold turkey.

Cholesterol

Consuming unfiltered coffee on a regular basis can increase LDL cholesterol concentrations in the body. In a study published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology," scientists found that consuming boiled, unfiltered coffee -- the kind made in a French press, for example -- increased total cholesterol by 23 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Instant coffee and java prepared using a paper filter, however, increased total cholesterol by only 3 mg per deciliter of blood; the paper filter eliminates much of the cafestol and kahweol, the compounds that are responsible for increasing LDL concentrations.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is also affected by coffee consumption. An analysis published in the "Journal of Hypertension" found that drinking about three cups of coffee each day increased blood pressure significantly -- by 1.2 mm Hg, enough to potentially increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Although habitual coffee drinkers develop some tolerance to the drink's properties that increase blood pressure, quitting coffee would eliminate this risk.

Sleep

The caffeine in coffee provides an initial energy boost -- as well as an inevitable crash that can mess with sleep patterns hours later, especially when coffee is consumed in the afternoon. In a study in the "Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine," researchers found that drinking a cup of coffee even as much as six hours before bedtime could disrupt sleep patterns.

Considerations

Although the long-term benefits of quitting coffee are substantial, quitting the drink cold turkey might result in painful withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, depression and an inability to focus. As you might expect, the more coffee you drink, the worse the withdrawal symptoms will be. To ease the withdrawal symptoms, experts recommend slowly decreasing the amount of coffee you drink. A quick guideline: Decrease your coffee consumption by a half cup each day until you've completely eliminated it from your diet.

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