Want a drug that could lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and
colon cancer? That could lift your mood and treat headaches? That could
lower your risk of cavities?
If it sounds too good to be true, think again.
Coffee, the much maligned but undoubtedly beloved beverage, just made
headlines for possibly cutting the risk of the latest disease epidemic, type
2 diabetes. And the real news seems to be that the more you drink, the
REDUCING DISEASE RISK
After analyzing data on 126,00 people for as long as 18 years, Harvard
researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America’s favorite
morning drink, downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can
reduce diabetes risk by single digits. But having six cups or more each day
slashed men’s risk by 54% and womens by 30% over java avoiders.
Though the scientists give the customary “more research if needed” before
they recommend you do overtime at Starbuck’s to specifically prevent
diabetes, their findings, reported just two weeks ago, are very similar to
those in a less-publicized Dutch study last year. And perhaps more
importantly, it’s the lastest of hundreds of studies suggesting that coffee
may be something of a health food–especially in higher amounts.
In recent decades, some 19,000 studies have been done exaamining coffee’s
impact on health. And for the most part,their results are as pleasing as a
gulp of freshly brewed Breakfast Blend for the 108 million Americans who
routinely enjoy the traditionally morning–and increasingly daylong–ritual.
In practical terms, regular coffee drinkers include the majority of U>S>
adults and a growing number of children.
“Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is
harmful,” says Tomas DePaulis PhD, research scientist at Vanderbilt
University’s Institute for Coffee Studies, which conducts its own medical
research and tracks coffee studies from around the world. “For most people,
very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good.”
Consider this: At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on
a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Paekinson’s, with three
showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Other research shows that
compared to not drinking coffee, at least tow cups daily can translate to a
25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and
nearly half the risk of gallstones.
Coffee even offsets some of the damage caused by other vices, some research
indicates. "People who smoke and are heavy drinkers have less heart disease
and liver damage when they regularly consume large amounts of coffee
compared to those who don’t, says DePaulis.
There’s also some evidence that coffee may help manage asthma and even
control attacks when medication is unavailable, stop a headache, boost mood,
and even prevent cavities.
THE BENEFITS OF CAFFEINE
Is it the caffeine? The oodles of antioxidants in coffee beans, some of
which become especially potent during the roasting process? Even other
mysterious properties that warrant this intensive study?
Some of coffee’s reported benefits are a direct result of its higher
caffeine content: An eight ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about
85mg–about three and a half times more than the same serving of tea or cola
or one ounce of chocolate.
“The evidence is very strong that regular coffee consumption reduces risk of
Parkinson’s disease and for that, it’s directly related to caffeine,”
DePaulis tells WebMD. “In fact, Parkinson’s drugs are now being developed
that contain a derivative of caffeine based on this evidence.”
Caffeine is also what helps in treating asthma and headaches. Though not
widely publicized, a single dose of pain reliever such as Anacin or Excedrin
contains up to 120 milligrams–what’s in a hefty mug o’Joe.
It’s also caffeine–and not coffee, per se–that makes java a powerful aid
in enhancing athletic endurance and performance, says physiologist and
longtime coffee researcher Terry Graham, PhD, of the University of Guelph
in Canada. So powerful, in fact, that until recently, caffeine in coffee or
other forms was deemed a “controlled” substance by the Olympic Games
Committee, meaning that it could be consumed only in small, designated
amounts by competing athlites.
“What caffeine likely does is stimulate the brain and nervous system to do
things differently,” he tells WebMD> "That may include signaling you to
ignore fatigue or recruit extra units of muscle for intense athletic
performance. Caffeine may even have a direct effect on muscles themselves,
causing them to produce a stronger contraction. But what’s amazing about it
is that unlike some performance-enhancing manipulation some athletes do that
are specific for strength or sprinting or endurance, studies show that
caffeine positively enhances all of these things."
In other words, consume enough caffeine–whether it’s from coffee or another
source–and you will likely run faster, last longer and be stronger. What’s
enough? As little as one cup can offer some benefit, but the real impact
comes from at least two mugs, says Graham. By comparison, it’d take at least
eight glasses of cola to get the same effect, thich isn’t exacly conducive
for running a marathon.
But the harder you exercise, the more benefit you may get from coffee.
“Unfortunately, where you see the enhancing effects form caffeine is in
hard-woking athletes, who are able to work longer and somewhat harder,” says
Graham, who has studied the effects of caffeine and coffee for nearly two
decades. "If your’e a recreational athlete who is working out to reduce
weight or just feel better, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough to get a
n athletic benefit from coffee or other caffeinated products."
But you can get other benefits from coffee that have nothing to do with
caffeine. “Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, including a group of
compounds called quinines that when administered to lab rats, increases
their insulin sensitivity” he tells WebMD. This increased sensitivity
improves the body’s response to insulin.
That may explain why in that new Harvard study, those drinking decaf coffee
but not tea beverages also showed a reduced diabetes risk, albeit it was
half as mucccch as those drinking caffeinated coffee.
“We don’t know exacly why coffee is beneficial for diabetes,” lead
researcher Frank Hu, MD, tells WebMD> "It is possible that both caffeine and
other compounds play important roles. Coffee has large amounts of
antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and tocopherols, and minerals such as
magnesium. All these components have been shown to improve insulin
sensitivity and glucose metabolism."
Meanwhile, Itaalian researchers credit another compound called trigonelline,
which gives coffee its aroma and bitter taste, for having both antibacterial
and anti-adhesive properties to help prevent dental cavities form forming.
There are other theories for other conditions.
CHILDREN AND COFFEE
How does this brew affect growing minds and bodies? Very nicely, it seems,
says DePaulis. Coffee, as you probably know, makes you more alert, which can
boost concentration. But claims that it improves a child’s
academicperformance can be exaggerated. Coffee-drinking kids may do better
on school test because they’re more awake, but most task-to-task lab studies
suggest that coffee doesn’t really improve mental performance, says
But it helps kids’ minds in another way. "There recently was a study from
Brazil finding that children who drink coffee with milk each day are less
likely to have depression than other children," he tells WebMD> “In fact, no
studies show that coffee in reasonable amounts is in any way harmful to
On the flip side, it’s clear that coffee isn’t for everyone. Its legendary
jolt in excess doses–that is, more than whatever your individual body can
tolerate–can increase nervousness, hand tremgling, and cause rapid
heartbeat. Coffee may also raise cholesterol levels in some people and may
contribute to artery clogging. But most recent large studies show no
significant adverse affects on most healthy people, although pregnant women,
heart patients, and those at risk for osteoporosis may still be advised to
limit for avoid coffee.
The bottom line: "People who already drink a lot of coffee don’t have to
feel “guilty’ as long as coffee does not affect their daily life,” says Hu.
“They may actually benefit from coffee habits in the long run.”