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Coffee and Health: To Bean or Not To Bean?

Posted Jun 15 2010 12:00am

Well, well, we have all been through it: Every so often you go for coffee and one of your friends orders a tea. Said friend then launches into spiel about the myriad evils of coffee and caffeine. Luckily, you are too distracted by the tantalizing and smooth taste of the steaming hot coffee in your cup to process a word of what your friend is saying. You do, however, remember never to bring this friend out for coffee again lest they interfere with your buzz. Then, later on, you find yourself wondering, what is the deal with coffee? Is it good or bad?

The best answer may be that for most people the health benefits outweigh the risks . What are the benefits of coffee? Studies show that coffee reduces risk of developing diseases like Parkinsonism (better known as Parkinson’s) and type 2 diabetes. Coffee drinkers also have lowered risk of colon cancer, cirrhosis (a liver disease) , breast cancer, oral cancer, nonmelanoma skin cancer and of developing gallstones .  Coffee can also kick your workout to the next level . There’s even some new evidence that coffee may help with asthma attacks .

But why all the fuss? Why don’t we all start drinking the stuff like water? Remember that coffee contains caffeine and that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. Some long-term caffeine users may experience increased anxiety over time, due to caffeine’s effect of increasing perceived psychological stress. High levels of caffeine intake can also interfere with the quality of your sleep . Most importantly, however, I think, is that one new study indicated that the morning boost we feel from coffee is nothing more than a result of the offsetting caffeine withdrawals .

So what is the bottom line? As I began by saying, experts seem to agree that, “ overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful .” They also seem to agree that coffee should be consumed in moderation. Thus, when someone tries to give you a hard time about your next latte, you could tell them you have done a little research and decided that for you there is more good to come from it than bad. Or you could decide otherwise. Either way, you will be able to say you have considered the available information.

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