For many years, coffee has been a ‘whipping boy’, blamed for many ailments and health concerns. The most serious claim is that coffee could be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and/or cancer. However recent scientific studies paint coffee in a new light, suggesting that the popular brew may even be of some benefit to our health.
Recent research has failed to find a relationship between coffee and an increased risk of cancer or heart disease. It is believed that earlier studies didn't always take into account that known high-risk behaviours, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers… hence the association with an increased risk of cancer/ heart disease. Coffee was really masking the true cause - smoking and inactivity.
Research does suggest that a high consumption of unfiltered coffee is associated with mild elevations in cholesterol levels. And another study found that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific (and fairly common) genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body. So the rate at which you metabolise coffee may indeed affect your health.
The good news is that a number of current studies have highlighted coffee’s ability to benefit our health in other ways. Coffee may in fact assist in protecting against Parkinson's Disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. It is believed antioxidants such as polyphenols found in coffee may in fact play an important positive role.
Of course this doesn't mean that more is necessarily better and other beverages such as low fat milk contain important nutrients not found in coffee. Also, keep in mind that accompaniments such as full cream milk and sugar all add extra kilojoules and fat to your diet… and that heavy caffeine use (in excess of four cups of instant coffee or two cups of percolated or espresso coffee a day) can cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and headaches.
So again it seems the old saying, ‘everything in moderation’, seems to hold true.
© 2010 Heart Research Institute Ltd ABN 41 003 209 952