The Upside of Coffee: A HealthCentral Explainer
Finally, something habit-forming that isn’t terrible for you…at least in moderation. Coffee’s health benefits have long been debated, but research released recently from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston suggests that it’s good for you, if you don’t go overboard.
What’s healthy about coffee?
Not the caffeine. Probably coffee’s best known property, caffeine has little to do with coffee’s preventive benefits, particularly regarding Type 2 diabetes. A study in 2006 concluded that coffee’s greatest asset is its antioxidants. They help control the cell damage that can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes. It is also a source of chlorogenic acid, which has been shown in animal experiments to reduce glucose concentrations. Because Type 2 diabetes is a strong risk factor for heart failure, it’s likely that coffee’s benefits for diabetes have also helped decrease heart failure among coffee drinkers.
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How much is enough?
The data – coming from 140,220 participants and 6,522 heart failure events – showed that people who consumed two 8-oz cups of coffee a day were at 11 percent lower risk of heart failure. But the researchers also found that protection slowly decreased as more coffee was consumed, up to five cups a day. If you drink more than five cups, there may be potential for harm.
Put away your French press
In an article that appeared in the July 2007 issue of the journal Molecular Endocrinology, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine reported that cafestol, a compound found in coffee, elevates cholesterol by blocking a receptor in the intestinal pathway critical to its regulation. Apparently, French press coffee and espresso contain the highest levels of cafestol and can be reduced only through paper filters, which are most often used in drip coffee machines.
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Will drinking coffee make you live longer?
It certainly may help! The New England Journal of Medicine released a study showing that increased coffee drinking is linked to a longer lifespan. Women who drank two or three cups of coffee a day were 13 percent less likely to die, at any age, than those who drank no coffee at all. The men who drank coffee (at the same rate) decreased their risk by 10 percent.
The bottom line
As with anything, don’t overdo it. If you drink coffee, limit your intake to two cups a day. Remember, caffeine has its own side effects, such as high blood pressure, so if you really like the taste of coffee, go for the decaf cup—the study showed the benefits were the same. Also, don’t forget that if you add cream and sugar to your coffee, those calories add up, especially if you’re having more than one cup a day.