Wake up! Smell the coffee!

…And stay healthy!

What better time of year to hear good news about coffee?  The Northern Hemisphere is in the middle of the shortest days of the year, plus it’s the energy-draining and stressful holiday season.  The perfect time for coffee.  Last week the British Medical Journal published a review of coffee studies to investigate evidence for health effects, whether good or bad.  The result: good news!

As the report notes, coffee contains “over 1000 bioactive compounds”, caffeine being the most famous.  The authors speculate that some of these 1000+ compounds will have anti-inflammatory or antioxidant or anticancer potential.  They reviewed dozens of previous research studies on the health impacts of coffee and compiled the data.  Results:

  • The sweet spot, so to speak, for health benefit (defined as mortality from any cause) was around 3 cups of coffee per day.
  • Heart disease risk was lower for people drinking 3 cups/day compared to people who drank no coffee.
  • Women got more benefit from higher coffee intake than men.
  • Higher coffee intake was linked to lower risk for many cancers including prostate, melanoma, liver and endometrial.
  • Risk for type 2 diabetes was also reduced with coffee consumption.

The official conclusion:

Coffee consumption is more often associated with benefit than harm for a range of health outcomes across multiple measures of exposure..

Fire up the coffee pot!  Except, wait.  One thing this study did not look at was what people put in their coffee.  In a way that’s comforting, if coffee still provides benefits even if it’s loaded up with sugar or artificial sweeteners and whipped cream.  But if your basically non-calorie coffee becomes a sugar/fat calorie bomb, some of those benefits could be negated if you’re carrying excess weight.  One of the easiest ways to over consume calories is by drinking them, and our current coffee culture is more about sweeteners, super-sizing and whipped toppings than plain black coffee or espresso.  The study is good news for coffee drinkers, but not an excuse to guzzle sugar-sweetened mochas topped with whipped cream.

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