of us who drink a few of the 1.1 billion cups of coffee consumed
each day describe our bait as a guilty pleasure. This aromatic
beverage is often lumped with alcohol and cigarettes in the bad-for-you-but-legal
category, and it’s been blamed for ills ranging from fibrocystic
breasts to cancer. But the roughly 19,000 coffee studies conducted
in the past few decades suggest that coffee conveys numerous benefits
upon those who partake.
The Beneficial Bean
contains several micronutrients including potassium, niacin, and
magnesium, as well as antioxidants- super substances that protect
the body from the damaging effects of oxidation. In tests performed
at the University of Scranton, coffee contained more antioxidants
than the might blueberry and beneficial broccoli. Herein lines
a major source of coffee’s healthful wallop. Antioxidants
are associated with a slew of health benefits, including reduced
risk of both heart disease and cancer.
may play a role in coffee’s ability to increase insulin
sensitivity and protect against Type 2 diabetes and related conditions.
A long-term Harvard study found the more coffee you drink the
better, when it comes to diabetes. A few cups a day slightly reduced
the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but drinking at least six cups conveyed
a 30 percent risk reduction for women and 54 percent for men.
Both decaf and regular seem to offer these benefits.
often cited as the ‘big bad’ in coffee, actually bestows
health benefits as well: Consumption helps treat asthma, may slow
long-term weight gain, probably fights depression, and soothes
headaches. (Over-the-counter pain relievers contain a hefty dose
of caffeine, equivalent to a large cup of coffee.) British research
suggests that caffeine in coffee even enhances nerve cell activity
in the brain, potentially helping to protect against memory loss.
recent coffee studies support its role in preventing additional
diseases and conditions. Several studies imply that caffeine in
coffee and other beverages significantly reduces the risk of Parkinson’s
disease. In one Hawaiian study of 8,000 Japanese-American men,
coffee drinkers were roughly 5 percent less likely to develop
also indicates that coffee protects against cirrhosis as well
as cancers of the liver and colon. Drinking at least two cups
a day can cut your risk of gallstones by 50 percent. Coffee even
assists basic hydration; in 2004, the Institute of Medicine determined
that it hydrates thirsty bodies as well as water.
all the positive research, coffee’s reputation bears the
stain of years of negative publicity, some of it warranted, some
of it disproved. Coffee consumers are more likely to drink alcohol
and smoke; some researchers suspect that these two habits, and
not the coffee, may be responsible for increased health problems
in test subjects.
and tea were linked to osteoporosis in earlier studies; a Swedish
study published this year concludes that coffee does increase
the risk of fracture-but only in women who drink at least four
cups a day and who are not getting enough calcium. As for women
worried about breast cancer or fibrocystic breasts, the link between
these conditions and coffee is slim, as is the supposed connection
between coffee and pancreatic cancer.
who imbibe too much ‘Joe’ may have experienced the
caffeine jitters. Coffee can act as a stimulant, temporarily raising
blood pressure (especially in the infrequent caffeine drinker)
and sometimes leading to restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, difficulty
concentrating, and insomnia. Large quantities of coffee can factor
into the risk of highly blood pressure and blood clots in the
brain, as well as clogged arteries.
number of studies, however, indicate that coffee isn’t as
bad for the heart as often assumed. In fact, one small study of
heart failure patients revealed that these patients could exercise
longer and more vigorously after ingesting caffeine, while other
research suggests that coffee reduces the risk of cardiovascular
disease and mortality.
chemical in coffee, Cafestol, can raise cholesterol, but this
is found primarily in European brewed (boiling ground beans) or
French-press brewed coffee. American percolating and filtering
methods don’t have the same effect, as long as the coffee
is ‘regular’ instead of ‘defaf.’
coffee sales are on the rise, hitting $89 million in the United
States last year. While some researchers suspect that pesticides
used in conventional coffee production may be to blame for some
of the drink’s negative health effects, little evidence
exits at present that organic coffee conveys greater individual
health advantages than non-organic varieties. However, the benefits
to coffee growers and to the environment are myriad. And, says
the Organic Trade Association’s Holly Givens, “if
the environment is in a better state, it’s better for public
healthy.” By growing organic coffee farmers
avoid pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and genetically modified
habitat for wildlife
seasonal employment in rural areas.
a truly guilt-free brew, buy organic.