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Coffee: A Vice or A Virtue?

posted: 05/14/15
by: Courtney Reimer
coffee happy
iStock

Every time you turn around it seems you hear someone who's either trying to cut back on coffee or eliminate it from their diet altogether. For busy, tired parents such as myself, coffee has always been one of the most important things in my diet in terms of being able to face the world each day -- though I always assumed it was something I'd have to limit eventually. Perhaps not. It turns out the widely held belief that coffee is a vice to be avoided may in fact be the opposite of true.

The New York Times recently did an analysis of all of the major recent studies on the impacts of coffee on health and it turns out that not only is coffee not bad for you, in many ways it might actually be good for you. (The one exception being pregnant women, but even they are given the green light to drink two cups a day.)

The studies they looked at examined coffee's effect on everything from heart disease to diabetes to Parkinson's and liver cancer. Almost universally, the effects of caffeine were at best beneficial in preventing all of the aforementioned or at worst not at all a contributing factor. A few of the key findings:

  • Moderate consumption of coffee (about 4 cups a day) was actually found to be preventative against heart failure. A person would have to jump all the way up to 10 cups a day to experience negative cardiovascular effects.
  • An increase in coffee consumption by two cups a day can be beneficial in prevention of liver cancer.
  • Looking at all cancers, it was found that when it comes to coffee, "the more you drank, the more protection was seen."
  • For the brain, coffee intake was seen as preventative against neurological conditions such as Parkinson's, cognitive decline and possibly even Alzheimer's.
  • Coffee consumption led to a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, again showing that the more coffee you drink, the less likely you are to contract the condition.
  • And when it comes to preventing death as a whole, drinking coffee was associated with a significantly reduced chance of death.
But that doesn't mean we should all head out and grab a superduper enormous sugary chocolatey creamy frozen coffee concoction. As the writer of the New York Times article is careful to point out that all of the above relates specifically to black coffee -- not the milkshakes that often masquerade as coffee drinks.

In any event, there's a lot here to raise a warm mug of java to, and I'll drink (a large coffee) to that.