It seems as if there’s a new study linking coffee to health just about every month. Some of the latest research indicates Maxwell House was right: coffee is good to the last drop!
After years of negative publicity, coffee is now being linked to a lowered risk for type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, and some cancers.
Researchers have brewed up plenty of good news about coffee and its effect on…
Mood: Caffeine affects the release of the “good mood” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine – and that’s something that may prevent depression and even suicide. In one study, researchers reviewed data from three large-scale U.S. studies, and compared those drinking little or no regular coffee and decaf drinkers to adults who drank from two to four cups of java daily. The results showed a 50% lower risk of suicide for those drinking regular coffee. Coffee has also been linked to lower risk for depression among women. One study showed that drinking up to four cups of coffee daily lowered your risk for depression by 20%.
Alzheimer’s: A study involving laboratory mice showed that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood can protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Research on humans shows that drinking three cups of coffee daily could slow the development of dementia. Elderly people with mild cognitive impairment who had higher levels of caffeine (from approximately three cups of regular coffee daily) developed Alzheimer’s disease two to four years later than their counterparts who had lower levels of caffeine. Scientists have noted that coffee consumption is not proven to completely protect from Alzheimer’s, but there does appear to be a strong link to reducing the risk or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Cancer: The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II linked drinking more than four cups of coffee daily to a 50% lower risk for mortality from throat or mouth cancer compared to non-drinkers. The study found no such effect for those who drank decaf or tea. Researchers noted that coffee contains antioxidants, polyphenols and other compounds that may help protect against the development or progression of cancer, but noted that they could not conclude from the study that drinking coffee prevents cancer. They will be doing additional research on at least 300,000 adults to examine a more diverse study group.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, drinking up to six cups daily is not associated with increased risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease—or from any cause.
But how much is too much? All coffee is not created equal. A cup equals eight ounces, and experts say on average this equals about 100mg of caffeine. Yet some high-test varieties pack much more.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has created a chart that compares the caffeine content of various popular coffee drinks. It shows that a 16-oz McDonald’s coffee has 133mg of caffeine, while the same size Starbucks “grande” has almost triple the caffeine (330mg). Excess caffeine from any source (coffee, soda, energy drinks, tea, ice cream) can lead to the jitters, anxiety and insomnia. Too little sleep is linked to lower immunity and weight gain.
Pregnant and nursing women should avoid caffeine. Caffeine is metabolized slowly, and since caffeine crosses the placenta it can reach the fetus and produce the same effects on the unborn or nursing child. Some experts recommend no caffeine for pregnant or nursing women; others recommend no more than one cup a day. Speak to your doctor for their recommendation.
In other coffee news, some experts recommend everyone should brew their coffee with a paper filter to remove substances that can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Dietitians will tell you that coffee is basically a no-calorie beverage, however, it’s important to be on the lookout for the extra fat and calories that tend to creep into doctored-up coffee drinks.
A 10-ounce cup of coffee with cream at Dunkin’ Donuts has 70 calories. Each added teaspoon of sugar adds another 20 calories. Some gourmet coffee drinks are essentially high-calorie desserts. Enjoy your favorite brew without compromising your health by drinking it black or lighten it up with nonfat milk. Nonfat evaporated milk is an excellent substitute for whole milk or cream.
Susan Burke March is Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, who as eDiet's Chief Nutritionist promotes the dietary health and well being of consumers worldwide.