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What’s in coffee, anyway?
It’s a magical drink. But there’s a catch!
Coffee is super complex. It contains over 1,000 chemical compounds. The best-known ingredient in coffee is of course caffeine, which gives coffee its incredible stimulant and mood-enhancing properties. But coffee also contains things like:
- Chlorogenic acid
- Diterpenes (cafestol, kahweol)
Coffee is an incredibly complex chemical soup with a complex interplay of health benefits and drawbacks. First, let’s breeze through the benefits.
What are the benefits of coffee?
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you already know the answer to this. Increased focus, mood enhancements, and just, well… waking up! There are also reported benefits to lowering Type 2 Diabetes risk, increasing athletic performance, preventing cognitive decline with aging, and more.
What does the research say about the ‘Coffee Controversy’?
The relationship between what you eat and acne remains controversial. Studies that asked people to identify what they think is contributing to their acne have identified coffee as a possible trigger.
There haven’t been any studies done to conclusively say whether or not drinking coffee makes acne worse, but there are a few important factors to consider.
#1: Coffee magnifies your body’s stress response
Coffee magnifies your body’s response to stressful events. This is the most dire and far-reaching problem with coffee consumption in relation to acne, I believe.
In technical terms, coffee triggers “hyperadrenalism” – it makes your adrenal glands over-react to stressful events by pumping out excess stress hormones. Not good!
#2: Coffee impairs glucose metabolism and makes you insulin resistant
This is similar to #1, but a little different. Drinking coffee actually makes it more difficult for your body to process carbohydrates effectively. Basically, coffee makes you insulin resistant, which can lead to systemic elevated insulin and blood sugar, causing your skin to over-produce oil, your skin cells to replicate too quickly, and your inflammation levels to go up (i.e. more redness/swelling of acne).
#3: Sugar in coffee cause acne
Coffee drinks frequently contain sugar. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to walk away from Starbucks without a giant milky concoction, with 8 ounces of low-fat, pasteurized, conventionally-raised milk (the worst kind for acne), loads of sugar, and poor-quality coffee with 300mg+ of caffeine (a stress disaster waiting to happen).
Well, simply put, sugar is right up there, spiking your blood sugar, boosting inflammation/redness/swelling of acne, making your skin over-produce oil, depressing your immune system, and damaging your skin cells through glycation.
In short, sugary coffee drinks are acne bombs. Avoid at all costs! If you’re in a bind, go for black coffee, always. However, black coffee still has the other 12 acne triggers associated with it.
#5: Coffee interferes with absorption of minerals from food
When you drink coffee with a meal (or close to a meal), it impairs your body’s ability to absorb minerals from your food. That’s a really big potential issue for acne sufferers, because acne can be worsened by deficiencies in minerals.
Coffee can cause acne in a variety of ways:
- Coffee magnifies your body’s stress response, boosting stress hormones that lead to acne.
- Coffee drinks are often spiked with milk and sugar, which are two of the top four dietary acne triggers.
- Coffee can disrupt your gut flora, causing dysbiosis, inflammation, and redness/swelling of acne.
- Quitting coffee is a small part of a holistic diet- and lifestyle-based treatment for acne.
- There are many bigger, more important root causes of acne. You need to fix your diet and lifestyle to really cure these root causes of acne