Coffee: a health drink or an addictive brew?

July 15, 2010 by  

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I love the smell and taste of coffee. What I don’t like are the sleepless nights, the palpiations, and the withdrawal symptoms that consist of headache and lethargy. I guess I am one of those who are highly susceptible to the stimulating effects of caffeine. I mean, my big brother practically grew up drinking cups and cups of coffee each day and my husband would drink an espresso after dinner and still get a good night’s sleep. Nowadays, I limit my coffee intake to a single cup in the morning and decafs in the afternoon.

But let us see what the health experts have to say about coffee.

Coffee and heart health

Studies presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) in March year suggest that coffee is “generally heart friendly.” One study  on 130,054 people showed that coffee lowers the risk for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm). Those who drink at least 4 cups of coffee have a 2% chance of being hospitalized duearrhythmia compared to 18% chance among non-coffee drinkers.

 Coffee also doesn’t cause damage to blood vessels that lead to atherosclerosis, according to a study on more than 3000 individuals. A third study indicates that coffee consumption can slightly elevate blood pressure, but the effect was described as “modest”.

Cofffee and diabetes

Another study presented at the AHA meeting indicate that coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus among women. Those who drank 4 to 5 cups of coffee had a 56% lower risk for diabetes than those who did not. In this study, decaffeinated coffee did not have the same beneficial effect as the real brew.

Coffee and cancer

Coffee also has a protective effect against certain types of cancer. According to an analysis of 9 previous studies, coffee helps lower the risk head and neck cancer – by 39%! – but tea does not. No data on decaf brew are available.

In an earlier study, Harvard researcerhs also reported that coffee drinkers are less likely – by 60% – to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer than non-drinkers.

Is coffee a health food or an addictive stimulant?

It looks like coffee in general is healthy but health experts are rather cautious is declaring it at the ultimate health drink to fight heart disease and cancer.

According to the lead author of the cancer study Dr. Mia Hashibe, assistant professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City:

“Since coffee is so widely used and there is a relatively high incidence and low survival rate of these forms of cancers, our results have important public health implications that need to be further addressed.”

According heart rhythm study leader Dr. Arthur Klatsky:

“…I don’t think we’re ready to tell people they should drink coffee to prevent heart rhythm problems… It could be that coffee drinkers have better diets or exercise more. We can’t say for sure that it might not be related to minor heart rhythm problems that don’t require hospitalization.
Coffee drinkers don’t have to quit because they have heart rhythm problems. That’s about as far as we can go.”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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