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Q. COFFEE CONNECTION?


How about some good news on drinking coffee? It’s about time. Coffee is consumed in abundance world wide. Folks often associate coffee with caffeine, which is true, but in addition, it contains a large number of antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. Caffeine, in coffee, has given it a negative health image, since caffeine is a stimulant. Health conscious people often claim with some amount of pride and self righteousness that they “don’t do caffeine”. Modern day medical mystics such as Edgar Cayce and Rudolph Steiner both claimed the health benefits of coffee but this information has not been widely publicized. They both asserted that coffee was good for us, especially when it was freshly brewed and drunk without milk or sugar added. No large scientific proof was available until recently. A large study, undertaken by the National Institute of Health, National Cancer Institute and the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, May 17, 2012, has shown that coffee consumption was inversely related to total mortality. The study involved over 400,000 participants between 1995 and 2008, giving it a robust statistical power.

Before this large investigation, there were multiple smaller reports suggesting a negative link between coffee and heart disease given the possibility of a change in the lipid profile and blood pressure. These studies, in retrospect, have involved small numbers of people and were poorly designed. Tobacco use, previously not looked at in association with coffee consumption, turns out to be an important determinant as well. Coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke cigarettes, consume more alcohol and red meat and exercise less. They also tended to eat less fruits and vegetables and white meat. Therefore, it made sense to discover that coffee drinkers had an increased mortality over nondrinkers, both men and women. However, this large study cited above, was able to tease out the various confounders, looking specifically at coffee consumption alone. This is what they found out. There were less deaths among coffee drinkers from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes (especially among women), and infections. There were no differences among women regarding deaths from cancer. For men, who drank more than six cups of coffee daily, there was a slight increase in cancer related deaths.

About two-thirds of the participants drank regular coffee while the remainder drank castrated (decaffeinated) coffee. There was no mention of the type of coffee or the brewing methods nor whether milk or sugar was added. Coffee consumption varied from 1 cup daily to more than 6 cups. Women benefited more than men from coffee drinking. The benefits were also slightly dose dependent, with 4 to 5 cups being the “optimal” daily dosing.

Given the popularity of this beverage, I think this study is very helpful for many. Of course, if caffeine bothers you (extra heart beats, upset stomach, nervousness, insomnia and so on) you need to avoid the caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee, made naturally by water processing rather than industrial strength chemicals, can also offer a delicious brew with attendant health providing antioxidants such as polyphenols. There is some controversy that milk may nullify some of the beneficial effects of coffee.

It goes without saying that tea, especially green tea, is extremely beneficial for us. Two to three cups of green tea daily would also keep the doctor away.

Cheers. To your health! Dr. Philip Bhark M.D., FACC

Also of interest… Dr Bhark will be blogging on www.ExpatNewsletter.net | Thailand’s Fastest Growing Community Website…


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