Everyone who knows me knows that I love coffee. I don’t mean the kind my mother made, perk coffee that sat on the stove for hours on end, but good coffee that I make fresh with the right kind of beans. Straight-up coffee, flavored, espresso or cappuccino – when I talk about it or even write this column, I can just smell and taste it. Yummy.
Now, I don’t overdo it, although my wife, Penny, might say I do. But if I kept track of how much coffee I drink, it’s probably six cups a day. Not six mugs a day, but six cups, with a cup being 8 ounces. Mugs are often twice that amount. I mention this because the studies below define a cup as 8 ounces. Keep that in mind.
Whether coffee is healthy is so important because three out of four people drink it, with most of them drinking it regularly. So if it’s bad, it’s an important public health message for us to know that. It turns out, though, that the opposite is true.
Drink coffee, live longer. It’s that simple. Coffee is an elixir of life. And, interestingly, it’s not the caffeine. Because regular coffee and decaf carry the same protection.
The theory is that chemical compounds known as polyphenols along with other antioxidants in this gift from Mother Nature carry properties associated with reduced inflammation and reduced insulin resistance, which could be why previous studies have shown that coffee may protect us from diabetes. Still other studies have shown that coffee promotes health of the liver, that rarely discussed organ that does so much for us and never asks for so much as a simple “thank you” in return.
Now to discuss two more recent studies published in the American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine.
The first was a mammoth study from 10 European countries that involved more than 500,000 men and women. Researchers found that those drinking three cups of coffee per day lived longer. Most noticeable was a reduction in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract such as colon cancer, but also diminished heart attacks and strokes.
The second study came out of the University of Southern California. Again, it was a mammoth study, including 185,000 people of all different ethnicities. And guess what? It showed the same thing: Drink coffee, live longer.
The strength of these new studies is that they’re really, really large – more than half a million people followed for 16 years. Large and long make for good data.
Now, you can argue there are other factors that might impact the results found in these studies – behavioral factors. Coffee drinkers just might be more active, they might be more engaged with their life, they might eat differently, things like that.
That notion was addressed in the editorial content that accompanied the studies’ results. The writers said we should hold our horses before doctors rush to recommend to everyone that they drink coffee. And they may be right.
If the concern is about drinking too much caffeine, consider that previous studies have shown up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is OK for most adults. That’s about four cups of coffee a day. For pregnant women, it’s recommended to stick with three cups per day.
My spin: The naysayers who say coffee is bad for you should fold up their tents and go home. They are wrong. Coffee, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, is not bad for you at all. And there are so many studies that show it has a salutatory effect that perhaps we should consider it a vitamin.
Maybe we should call coffee the new Vitamin C2. I’ll drink to that – make it a coffee, of course. Stay well.