This much maligned beverage has made headlines for being – surprise – a healthy beverage. Now this is no huge revelation to me as I feel positively suicidal before I have my first morning cup-a-joe. Coffee extends my life every morning.
Coffee got its bad reputation from associating with undesirables. People are natural multi-taskers. They like to do something while they smoke, sometimes combining smoking, drinking, and talking all at once.
Coffee or whiskey was perhaps used to wash down the bad taste of the smoke. The result was coffee was considered a co-conspirator with cigarettes in research showing increased mouth, throat and lung cancer.
It turns out it was all the cigarettes. Combine cigarettes with the most innocent of beverages (dandelion wine, mint tea, mother’s milk), and the results will be the same. The coffee was simply an innocent bystander.
The latest research on coffee is the result of a “Mega-study.” Mega-anything sounds impressive, but a mega-study is a powerful statistical technique to combine dozens of smaller, weaker studies and get a big strong study – and hopefully some bullet- proof answers.
This time the analysis showed stroke risk was significantly lower among coffee drinkers. When all the usual suspects for stroke (hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes), were accounted for, coffee drinkers came out ahead.
But cutting down on the stroke risk is only the puff of steam in the volcano of coffee benefits. Coffee is low-cal. If you like it black, it’s like celery, takes more calories to digest than it contains. Even with sugar and a splash of cream, it’s less than 50 calories. That is half the calories of most soda, juices or margaritas.
Perhaps coffee can save us from the obesity epidemic, venti mocha with whip notwithstanding.
Coffee has antioxidants, those magical molecules that are believed to help everything, including aging. No guarantees that coffee will make you any younger, but the risk of heart disease is lower in coffee drinkers.
Colon cancer, gall bladder disease and Parkinson’s are all less frequent in roasted bean enthusiasts. Even the risk of diabetes is lower.
But coffee is not for the faint of stomach. The acid level in the stomach is measurably increased by coffee, as any college student up late for finals will attest. There are also better beverages for insomniacs. Caffeine when taken in excess can turn you into a jittery mess, again channeling my undergraduate years.
But strokes are nasty things and any way to avoid one is a blessing.
One more thing about coffee: Drink it regularly and you’re guaranteed not to sleep through your life.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /