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International coffee day 2021: The most up-to-date information about coffee's health advantages
27 Jan' 21

International coffee day 2021: The most up-to-date information about coffee's health advantages

 


Coffee’s potential health benefits 

Coffee has been one of the most studied dietary components over the last many decades. And the news is generally positive. Coffee drinking in moderation (three to four cups per day) has been related to a longer life expectancy. A study published in Circulation in November 2015 indicated that coffee drinking was linked to an 8% to 15% lower risk of death (with larger reductions among those with higher coffee consumption). According to other studies, coffee consumers may have a lower risk of:  

  • Coronary heart disease (including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke)  
  • Diabetes type 2  
  • Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease  
  • Cirrhosis is a disease that affects the colon, uterus, and liver. 

It is unknown why coffee consumption may be advantageous. Of course, caffeine could be a factor, but separating that from the study can be difficult because many studies do not distinguish between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. 

 

Coffee's potential health risks  

Several studies have connected coffee intake to a variety of health issues, including:  

 

  • Cancers of the bladder and pancreas. Coffee drinking has been linked to malignancies of the bladder, pancreatic, and possibly other organs in studies dating back more than 30 years. Better research has mostly disproved these fears since then. Indeed, some of the earlier studies that raised red lights about a cancer link have now been cited as examples of "fishing expeditions" and shoddy study methodology.  
  • Esophageal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the esophagus. The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern in a 2016 report that drinking coffee (or other beverages) at temperatures above 149° F could increase the risk of esophageal cancer. This isn't specific to coffee, either. And most coffee drinkers in the United States aren't used to sipping coffee at such high temperatures.  
  • Atherosclerosis is a type of cardiovascular disease. Studies linking coffee consumption to cardiovascular disease have mostly found it with higher consumption (well above four cups per day), and some of these studies failed to account for smoking, which often goes hand in hand with coffee consumption and is, of course, a significant cardiovascular disease risk factor in and of itself. Modest and transient increases in blood pressure, as well as rapid or irregular cardiac rhythms, are other causes of concern.  
  • Side effects can be bothersome, but they're usually small. Caffeine in coffee can disrupt sleep and induce a jittery or “speedy” feeling. Heartburn, frequent urination, and palpitation can also occur. 

 

The WHO has taken a new step... and others have followed suit.  

Coffee was formally removed from the list of possibly carcinogenic foods by the WHO in a June 2016 study. It went on to say that coffee could help protect against uterine and liver cancers.  Coffee isn't the only thing on the list of foods that are probably safe and perhaps healthful, according to the WHO. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (commissioned by the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture) examined the evidence and concluded that “moderate coffee consumption (three to five cups per day) can be included into a healthy dietary pattern...” 

 

Do you think you should drink coffee?  

Given all of this positive information about coffee consumption, you may be tempted to increase your consumption or begin drinking it if you haven't previously.  

Here's how we see it:  

  • There is no current suggestion to drink coffee if you don't like it. However, if we can figure out why coffee has health benefits, a medicine that gives those benefits without the negative effects (or taste) of coffee or caffeine may be developed. If given the choice between a new drug and a cup of coffee, one might opt for the latter. 
  • If you currently drink coffee, it should be heartening to know that decades of research has established no substantial link between coffee drinking and cancer, and that, on the contrary, coffee use appears to provide a variety of health benefits. However, I'm not sure the evidence is strong enough to suggest increasing your daily habit. One explanation is that we don't know for sure whether or not coffee drinking is responsible for the health advantages seen in this research. Another unquantifiable factor could be to blame. Another factor is that the total impact was minor. It's also worth noting that certain people are hypersensitive to coffee's adverse effects.  
  • Consume coffee in moderation. Although we don't know how much coffee is too much, moderation reduces the likelihood of negative effects.
  • Drinking beverages at such high temperatures (above 149° F) is not recommended. There is a risk of burning oneself in addition to the risk of esophageal cancer.  

 

To sum up...  

It's unusual for food on the "cancer risk list" to be removed from it — and even more unusual for such foods to be reclassified as healthy. But, as the millions of people who drink coffee every day will tell you, there's nothing like it when it comes to coffee.  

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