Packed with health benefits, cof­fee gains ground


Long viewed as a con­tro­ver­sial dark sub­stance, cof­fee is gain­ing ground among med­i­cal ex­perts who say it can pro­tect against heart dis­ease, Parkin­son’s, Alzheimer’s and di­a­betes, even if it is de­caf­feinated.

Mul­ti­ple stud­ies pub­lished world­wide in re­cent years have con­cluded that cof­fee can be good for the health.

In Fe­bru­ary, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is­sued new di­etary guide­lines, as it does ev­ery 5 years.

But this year’s rec­om­men­da­tions said for the first time that cof­fee is not gen­er­ally harm­ful, even mul- tiple cups per day.

“We looked at all the science,” said Miriam Nel­son, a pro­fes­sor in the School of Nu­tri­tion Science and Pol­icy at Tufts Uni­ver­sity, and a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee that wrote the guide­lines.

“We have found no neg­a­tive, ad­verse ef­fects on health when you drink up to three to five cups a day,” she told AFP.

“In fact, there is a de­creased risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, Type 2 di­a­betes, Parkin­son’s dis­ease and a cou­ple of can­cers,” in­clud­ing breast and prostate can­cer, she said.

She said a “mod­er­ate amount” would max out at 500 mil­ligrams of caf­feine per day.

Re­searchers do not yet un­der­stand the rea­son for cof­fee’s health benefits.

That’s why Tom Brenna, an­other mem­ber of the ad­vi­sory group that wrote the new guide­lines, urged some cau­tion.

“Im­ply­ing that cof­fee is go­ing to cure can­cer is not a very good thing to do,” said Brenna, a pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion and chem­istry at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity.

But af­ter por­ing over the re­search, ex­perts could find no rea­son for con­cern.

“There is no ev­i­dence what­so­ever for neg­a­tive health conse- quences in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and if any­thing, the sig­nal was in an­other di­rec­tion. It seems to be protective,” Brenna added.

“The real take­away is, have your cof­fee in the morn­ing with com­plete con­fi­dence that at least on av­er­age, no­body ever found any prob­lem.”

Preg­nant women should limit them­selves to about 200 mil­ligrams of caf­feine per day, just as a pre­cau­tion, even though the panel found no ev­i­dence in re­view­ing the re­search that cof­fee was linked to pre­ma­ture birth, he said.

More Re­search

Nel­son would like to see more re­search on the ef­fects of caf­feinated en­ergy drinks that are popular among youths, in or­der to find out how much caf­feine may be toxic.

She also cau­tioned against the ex­tra calo­ries that come when peo­ple add cream and sugar to cof­fee, which has very few calo­ries on its own.

Both sci­en­tists agree that the benefits of cof­fee, of which each grain con­tains 1,000 dif­fer­ent mol­e­cules, goes be­yond the caf­feine and could be ex­plained by an­tiox­i­dants like polyphe­nols, which are also found in red wine and co­coa.

Th­ese at­tributes could also ex­plain the re­sults of a re­cent study in­volv­ing 25,000 men and women in South Korea that found those who drank three to five cups of cof­fee per day had cleaner ar­ter­ies, with less of the choles­terol buildup that leads to heart dis­ease.

A study in­volv­ing 2,000 peo­ple found cof­fee may help pro­tect against Parkin­son’s dis­ease, an in­cur­able neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der.

Other stud­ies have linked cof­fee con­sump­tion to lower in­ci­dence of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Re­searchers at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity showed in 2011 that women who drank at least four cups of de­caf­feinated cof­fee per day had a 20 per­cent lower risk of de­pres­sion.

And in 2006, a study in­volv­ing 90,000 U.S. women showed that drink­ing two or three cups of cof­fee — caf­feinated or de­caf­feinated — per day re­duced the risk of di­a­betes.

Cof­fee may also help ex­tend life, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health study on 400,000 U.S. men and women aged 50 to 71, which found a 10 per­cent lower risk of dy­ing from any cause — ex­cept can­cer — among those who drank mul­ti­ple cups of cof­fee per day.

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