Wining & Dining
Health Benefits of Coffee
4/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Not so long ago, that daily coffee-drinking habit tended to be viewed as a bad one, with more potential risks than benefits. We were told that coffee could affect our sleep, increase our heart rates and — worst of all — potentially cause cancer.


Fortunately for coffee drinkers, though, coffee’s reputation has improved a lot in recent years. The idea that coffee might cause cancer has largely been disproven. In fact, newer studies have linked coffee drinking to a decreased risk of some types of cancer, particularly uterine and liver cancer.


Other studies have found that coffee drinking might be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, including heart attack, heart failure and stroke. If you recall, past research concluded that coffee consumption might be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.


But here’s the catch: Those studies mostly observed an increased risk in people who drink a lot of coffee — well more than four cups per day — and they didn’t take smoking into account. Smoking, of course, often accompanies coffee drinking, and it’s known to increase heart disease risk. In other words, there’s a good chance that if there is a link between high coffee intake and heart disease, it’s due to smoking or another related factor, like lack of exercise.


In addition, moderate coffee consumption is associated with reduced risks of type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), by the way, defines "moderate consumption” as three to five cups per day with no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine total. (An average 8-ounce cup has about 95 milligrams of caffeine.)


So, what’s the takeaway? First, if you don’t drink coffee, there’s no reason to rush out and pick up the habit. Though research certainly indicates some health benefits, coffee is not some miracle drug that will protect you from all manner of diseases.  And it can cause some bothersome side effects, like heartburn and frequent urination.


If you do enjoy your coffee though — and you do so in moderation — drink up! As a USDA advisory committee said in a report on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, "Moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern, along with other healthful behaviors.”


It’s worth noting, though, that the agency also pointed out that many people don’t take their coffee black but instead add cream, milk, dairy substitutes or sugar. These items, of course, can add lots of unnecessary calories to your morning joe. So, yes, enjoy your coffee. But go easy on the add-ins.

Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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