Enjoying a cup of coffee while reading this story? Well, you should! It turns out that your morning brew may do a lot more than just taste good.
When I was growing up, coffee drinking was often considered a ‘not-so-good’ habit. Not terrible, but certainly not ‘healthy’.
In recent years studies have found that coffee drinking isn’t so bad after all, and it may have some real health benefits. And the good news about coffee keeps growing. Researchers at Harvard University recently reported that men who drink six cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of developing prostate cancer by 60 percent. At the same time, a new Swedish study found that women who drink five cups a day lower their risk of developing an especially aggressive form of breast cancer.
This data adds to earlier research showing potential health benefits of coffee drinking for other diseases/conditions including:
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases
Higher consumption of coffee is associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s. Scientists do not have a clear understanding of why this is, but the correlation between coffee intake and lower risk of Parkinson’s has been consistent.
Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Coffee may counter several risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
In addition, coffee has been linked to lower risks for heart rhythm disturbances (another heart attack and stroke risk factor) in men and women, and lower risk for strokes in women.
In 2009, a study of 83,700 nurses enrolled in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study showed a 20% lower risk of stroke in those who reported drinking two or more cups of coffee daily, compared to women who drank less coffee or none at all. That pattern held regardless of whether the women had high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes.
Are there reasons to avoid coffee?
Just a few years ago, pregnant women were advised to eliminate virtually all caffeine. However in August 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that moderate caffeine drinking – less than 200 mg per day, or about the amount in 12 ounces of coffee – doesn’t appear to have any major effects on causing miscarriage, premature delivery, or fetal growth.
The effects of larger caffeine doses are unknown, and other research shows that pregnant women who drink many cups of coffee daily may be at greater risk for miscarriage than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers. Until we know more, it is prudent to limit coffee/caffeine to under 200 mg/day.
Insomnia, Jitters, Calories, Heartburn, and Urine
Heavy caffeine use —four to seven cups of caffeinated coffee a day — can cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness. However this varies greatly depending on the person. Individuals who are caffeine-sensitive (you probably know who you are) should obviously avoid or limit caffeinated beverages.
When it comes to calories, coffee on it’s own is very ‘bikini friendly’! A 6-ounce cup of black coffee contains just 7 calories. But half and half, whole milk, or cream… plus sugar of course…can add calories quickly.
Worried about too many bathroom breaks? Caffeine is a mild diuretic – so you urinate more than you would without it. Decaffeinated coffee has about the same effect on urine production as water.
If heartburn is a problem, both regular and decaffeinated coffee contain acids that can make this condition worse. So if you suffer from GERD or other reflux conditions, sorry, but coffee needs to go on your ‘avoid’ list.
Wondering about the caffeine content of coffee, tea, and colas? Check out this list compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.