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LIFELONG HEALTH- Coffee Research Continues to Stir Debate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. David Lipschitz Creative Syndicate   
Thursday, 09 August 2012 01:45

Many of us can't wait for that first cup of coffee in morning. Many need the caffeine to wake up and get going. As a nation, the daily average for all Americans is 1.9 cups for men and 1.4 cups for women.

An average 8-ounce cup of coffee contains anywhere from 90 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. But these days, who even knows what an 8-ounce cup looks like. Order a 24-ounce cup of your favorite blend, drink three or more of these daily and you will have enough caffeine to keep you wide awake and wired for most of the day and much of the night.

Caffeine stimulates and acts as a diuretic. Drinking coffee in the late afternoon can interfere with sleep, lead to nighttime urination, cause fatigue the following day and the need, therefore, for that extra boost of caffeine to stay awake and concentrate.

There are other adverse effects of coffee. Caffeine can stimulate the heart rate and lead to an irregular heartbeat. While caffeine may not lead to heart disease, medications to treat irregular heartbeat are frequently prescribed. The most common are a class of drugs called beta blockers that can cause fatigue, insomnia, decreased libido and an inability to concentrate: all symptoms that may increase the need for another coffee jolt.

There is evidence that coffee can impair the absorption of some vitamins and minerals and can cause panic attacks. Some research suggests that it can cause an interference with sperm motility that can contribute to infertility.

But like wine and alcohol, there is accumulating evidence that coffee can be beneficial to your health. Epidemiologic studies largely conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that compared to nondrinkers, those consuming coffee are less likely to have diabetes, strokes, certain forms of cancer and even Alzheimer's disease. And the evidence indicates that the more you drink, the better. For example, a study conducted in 2005 showed that those who drank more than six cups of coffee daily had a 35 percent reduction in the risk of diabetes.

Published recently in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, a joint study by the National Institutes of Health and AARP reported on the effects of coffee on the risk of disease and mortality in 400,000 people ranging from 51 to 70.

They examined risk and causes of death in those consuming one, two to three, four to five, or more than six cups of coffee daily. Using sophisticated statistical analysis that excluded the risks of cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle and dietary indiscretion, the study found that the more coffee consumed, the lower the overall risk of death.

In addition, the more coffee, the lower the incidence of heart disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer's.

Is it the caffeine in coffee that is causing the health benefits? The answer is almost certainly no, as most evidence suggests that decaffeinated coffee has similar health benefits.

Coffee has been shown to have the highest concentration of antioxidants of any beverage. These antioxidants neutralize highly toxic substances in cells that contribute to cell damage. Over time the continued negative effects of oxidants can cause the cell to undergo malignant transformation. And in the case of cells coating the wall of blood vessels, damage by oxidants promotes the deposition of cholesterol and heart disease. Coffee also contains high concentrations of magnesium and chromium that may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Because coffee is derived from a nutritious bean, it is not surprising that it contains compounds that promote health. But always consider the downside when considering the benefits of any beverage.

Just like alcohol, too much caffeinated coffe e, particularly late in the day, is bad for you. In moderation and particularly without caffeine, coffee can promote health and be an ideal way to quench thirst without consuming empty calories.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz visit