Not too long ago, I was learning about the dangers of coffee, like how it can raise your blood pressure, make your heart beat faster, keep you from sleeping, etc.
Now, the WHO is taking coffee off the list of things that might cause cancer. There is also more and more evidence that coffee might be good for you. So good that doctors might start telling their patients to try it.
What’s different? It all comes down to the proof. Coffee might be good for your health.
In the last few decades, coffee has been one of the foods that have been studied the most. And most of the news is good. A longer life span has been linked to drinking three to four cups of coffee a day.
In fact, a study published in November 2015 in the journal Circulation found that drinking coffee was linked to an 8% to 15% lower risk of death (with larger reductions among those with higher coffee consumption).
Other studies have found that people who drink coffee may be less likely to get heart disease (including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke)
- diabetes type 2
- the disease Parkinson’s
- cancer of the uterus and liver
No one knows why drinking coffee might be good for you.
One factor could be the caffeine, but it can be hard to tell from the research because many studies don’t make a distinction between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.
Coffee’s possible health risks
Several studies have shown that drinking coffee can be bad for your health.
1, Cancer of the bladder and the pancreas.
Studies done more than 30 years ago suggested that drinking coffee might be linked to bladder, pancreas, and possibly other types of cancer.
Since then, better research has mostly shown that these worries were unfounded.
In fact, some of the older studies that raised red flags about a cancer link are now used as examples of “fishing expeditions” and bad research methods.
2, Cancer of the esophagus.
In a report that was just released, the WHO said that drinking coffee that is hotter than 149° F may increase the chance of getting esophageal cancer.
But this isn’t just true of coffee.
Most people in the US who drink coffee don’t usually drink it at such a high temperature.
3, Cardiovascular disease.
Most studies that have found a link between coffee and heart disease have focused on people who drink a lot of coffee (well above four cups per day),
Some of these studies didn’t take into account the fact that people often smoke when they drink coffee.
It is, of course, a major risk factor for heart disease all on its own.
Other things to worry about are small and temporary rises in blood pressure and fast or strange heart rhythms.
4, Side effects that are bothersome but mostly small.
Caffeine in coffee can make it hard to sleep, make you feel “speedy” or jittery, and even make you feel anxious.
5, Some people who drink coffee have problems with heartburn, having to go to the bathroom often (because caffeine is a diuretic), and having their heart beat too fast.
The WHO and others have taken a new step.
In a report from June 2016, the WHO said that coffee was no longer on the list of foods that could cause cancer.
It went on to say that coffee might help protect against uterine and liver cancer.
And the WHO isn’t the only group to put coffee on a list of foods that are probably safe and might even be good for you.
The Advisory Committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines (commissioned by the secretaries of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture)
The researchers looked at all the evidence and said, “Three to five cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet pattern.”
The World Cancer Research Fund International found that drinking coffee was linked to a lower risk of getting several kinds of cancer.
Should you have a cup of coffee?
When you hear all of these good things about coffee, you might want to drink more of it or start drinking it if you don’t already.
Here’s my take:
No one recommends that you drink coffee even if you don’t like it.
But if we can figure out why coffee might be good for your health, we might be able to make a drug that gives you the same health benefits without the taste or side effects of coffee or caffeine.
Or, if someone had to choose between a new medicine and coffee, they might choose coffee.
If you already drink coffee, it should give you peace of mind to know that decades of research have not found a strong link between coffee and cancer.
There seem to be a number of health benefits to drinking coffee.
But I’m not sure if the evidence is strong enough to suggest that you do more of it every day.
One reason is that we don’t know for sure that the health benefits seen in these studies were caused by drinking coffee.
It could be because of something else that can’t be measured.
Another reason is that the effect was small in the big picture.
And it’s important to remember that some people feel the side effects of coffee very strongly.
Don’t drink too much coffee.
Even though we don’t have proof that drinking six or more cups of coffee is dangerous, the risk of side effects is lower if you drink coffee in moderation.
Don’t drink beverages at very high temperatures (i.e., over 149° F).
There is a chance that you could get esophageal cancer, but there is also a chance that you could burn yourself.
It doesn’t happen very often that food on the “cancer risk list” gets taken off of it.
Even stranger is that these kinds of foods are then thought to be healthy.
But when it comes to coffee, there’s nothing like it, as the millions of people who drink it every day will tell you.
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