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post Dec 29 2003, 10:01 PM
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Coffee: Grounds for Concern?
by Susan D. Moores, R.D.

There's a battle brewing over your coffee pot. First, reports link caffeine to health problems; then, new research comes along to say it's OK. It's enough to give a coffee drinker whiplash.

Do coffee and caffeine harm health? Not likely, say most experts - as long as you don't overdo it. Here's the latest scoop.

The Fears vs. the Evidence

* Heart Disease

The Fear: Research in the early '80s suggested coffee might raise cholesterol levels.

The Evidence: A recent study surveying more than 20,000 men and women for 10 years found no link between coffee and heart disease. Other large studies have drawn similar conclusions.

What Changed? Scientists speculate that the paper filters now used to brew coffee make a difference. Filters trap terpenes - components in coffee known to raise cholesterol.

Caveat 1: Caffeine can temporarily raise blood pressure - a risk factor for heart attack or stroke. However, it's rarely a significant issue for people who regularly consume caffeine.

Caveat 2: Watch what you add to your coffee. Loading up with creamers adds hydrogenated oils and their dreaded trans fats; stirring in lots of sugar adds empty calories, which could contribute to weight gain. Both raise risks for heart disease.

* Cancer

The Fear: In the 1980s, caffeine was linked to an increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

The Evidence: Several subsequent studies have disproved these findings. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no strong evidence that moderate daily coffee drinking - 2 - 3 cups - poses any cancer risk.

The Good News: Some studies report caffeine may actually reduce the risk of colon cancer. (See "Caffeine: Is It Good for You?")

* Osteoporosis

The Fear: Caffeine can cause the body to lose calcium, a risk factor for osteoporosis.

The Evidence: The small loss of calcium - 5mg for every 6 oz. of coffee - is easily replaced by a few tablespoons of milk or yogurt.

* Infertility

The Fear: Some research suggests that caffeine, when combined with alcohol, can reduce a woman's chances of conceiving.

The Evidence: By itself, caffeine has demonstrated no effect on fertility.

* Miscarriages

The Fear: Caffeine has been associated with increased risk for miscarriages, pre-term deliveries and lower birth-weight babies.

The Evidence: Women who regularly drink more than 3 cups of coffee a day seem to show greater risk. Researchers are uncertain if caffeine itself is the cause, or if a secondary factor is involved.

* Intestinal problems

The Fear: Caffeine can have negative effects.

The Evidence: Indeed it might, particularly if you have an existing condition. If you have reflux problems, caffeine may make it more likely for stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Caffeine may also intensify pain from an ulcer. But while it might exacerbate these conditions, it won't cause them. In addition, caffeine can have a laxative effect on anyone.

Caffeine: Is It Good for You?

Research into caffeine isn't just about exploring the different ways it can hurt you. Researchers have found potential benefits from caffeine and coffee, too.

* Pain relief

The Good News: Caffeine can help produce faster, longer-lasting relief of headaches.

Why? Caffeine supports aspirin or ibuprofen, possibly because it improves the absorption of these medications in the stomach or it affects the flow of blood to the head.

Nothing's Perfect: In some people, caffeine can aggravate and trigger headaches.

* Gallstones

The Good News: A study following 46,000 men found that those who reported drinking 2 - 3 cups of regular coffee a day were 40% less likely to have symptoms of gallstones over a 10-year period.

Why? Experts think caffeine may help the gallbladder contract and empty, making it less likely stones will form.

* Colon cancer

The Good News: Some studies suggest coffee may reduce risk.

Why? Experts think that caffeine either may stimulate activity in the colon, which helps prevent cancerous cells from forming, or that caffeine and coffee inhibit the effect of cancer-causing agents.

* Brain function

The Good News: Two recent studies found that volunteers who drank coffee or caffeinated beverages exhibited improved short-term thinking skills and memory.

Why? Caffeine blocks adenosine - a chemical that slows brain activity.

* Parkinson's disease

The Good News: Preliminary findings loosely connect coffee to a lower incidence of Parkinson's disease.

Why? Unclear. Much more research is needed on the connection between Parkinson's and caffeine to establish a link.

The Bottom Line

Caffeine in moderation, whether it's from coffee, soda or tea, appears to do no serious harm to your health and may actually have some perks. Enjoy your java - just keep daily consumption to three 8-oz. cups or less. And if it makes you jittery or 24 oz. just isn't enough, there's always decaf.

Susan Moores is a nutritionist and health writer in St. Paul, Minn. Her specialty is easy-to-implement lifestyle tips for better health.
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post Dec 30 2003, 11:55 AM
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Group: Moderators
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Yay Em!!
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Posts in this topic
- Kate   Coffee   Dec 29 2003, 10:01 PM
- - kodakstapler   Woo, once more (I got the job!) I'll be co...   Dec 30 2003, 04:27 AM
- - Kate   Yay Em!!   Dec 30 2003, 11:55 AM
- - shel1210   Congrats, Em!!! I guess it would be b...   Dec 30 2003, 03:54 PM
- - Lolly   Fantastic Em but I think Ive missed something - wh...   Jan 1 2004, 03:40 PM
- - euharlee2003   Lolly, I am the same way about coffee and think I ...   Jan 1 2004, 04:35 PM
- - Lolly   Thanks Euharlee The teenager thing is going to be...   Jan 2 2004, 12:08 AM
- - euharlee2003   You should be very proud of what you and your cous...   Jan 2 2004, 02:15 PM
- - Lolly   Thanks Euharlee for your kind words. I must admit...   Jan 4 2004, 12:00 PM
- - GloriaD   Hi, I drink a lot of coffee and can drink caffien...   Jan 4 2004, 01:05 PM
- - lekililina   If coffee is bad for you, at lease I'll die ha...   Jan 4 2004, 10:08 PM
- - jokeje   Another good point for caffeine - I just heard thi...   Jan 8 2004, 05:12 PM
- - Lolly   Joanie, is that six cups per day or week. I just ...   Jan 8 2004, 07:22 PM
- - kodakstapler   Muahaha...I can now make every type of latte, brev...   Jan 8 2004, 07:26 PM
- - shetexas   I hate to be a downer, but caffine for me is painf...   Jan 9 2004, 02:03 PM
- - jokeje   SheTexas, Sorry to hear about the caffeine for you...   Jan 9 2004, 04:25 PM
- - vernon   Hello friends of Beverage, I am going to get myse...   Jan 23 2004, 07:35 PM
- - jokeje   Vernon, WELCOME!! I enjoy my coffee too m...   Jan 24 2004, 01:41 AM
- - vernon   QUOTE (jokeje @ Fri, 23 Jan 2004 19:41)Vernon...   Jan 24 2004, 02:02 AM

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