Latest research findings show ‘cup of joe’ could be a benefit


The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

Sitting in the Rockies at 8,000 feet on an overcast morning, sipping a cup of coffee.  Don’t feel cold, but it does warm me a bit. Not sleepy, but more alert as I finish the cup. Tastes pretty darn good.

  Steve Bayer

Coffee has its advocates and its critics. Americans consume coffee to the tune of a million tons a year at an estimated cost of $40 billion.

Some people think it’s the devil, and some can’t live without it, but research over the last five years has demonstrated a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the positive health benefits of coffee. 

In the fields of neurology, endocrinology, psychiatry and oncology, recent literature indicates that coffee, caffeinated (regular) and decaffeinated, can provide positive benefits on a number of health issues.

In neurology, studies have demonstrated a significant decrease in the occurrence of Parkinson’s Disease correlating with an increase in coffee consumption. Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day can reduce the chance of developing Parkinson’s by up to 50 percent. 

Before you shake your head in dismay over the thought of drinking that much coffee, remember a cup is only eight ounces. 
Interestingly, for this condition, caffeine does not seem to play a significant role. One of the many positive properties of coffee, caf or decaf, is that it is high in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. 

Antioxidants are scavengers that, when released in the body, consume free radicals which can create inflammation; in Parkinson’s, free radicals may damage and destroy healthy brain cells. 

The effect of coffee consumption on diabetes is more controversial. 

The American Diabetes Association has published literature supporting the view that two to four cups of coffee, decaffeinated or regular, can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Again, flavonoids may reduce systemic inflammation and subsequently insulin resistance, which inhibits the onset of diabetes. However, it is also true that caffeine can raise blood sugar levels in established diabetics as much as 8 percent. 

The health benefits for this condition are only found in black coffee, not those drinks laced with cream, sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Cancer and coffee is another hot topic. 

At one time coffee was felt to be associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer and bladder cancer. More rigorous in-depth studies have demonstrated a slight decrease in bladder cancer with coffee consumption. 

While there is an apparent increase in esophageal cancer in coffee drinkers, further studies indicate the increased cancer link is from the high temperature of a hot beverage that could damage the lining of the esophagus. 

In the last year, published research indicates a direct relationship between regular and decaf coffee consumption and a 26 percent decrease in colorectal cancer. 

Equally striking is a study of over 900 patients with stage 3 colon cancer which showed a greater than 50 percent decrease in recurrence of cancer in those individuals who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily.

A study demonstrating that women above the age of 65 who drank about 20 ounces of caffeinated coffee had a one-third less chance of progressing to dementia over a 10-year period than those who abstained.

Yes, there are some people who should avoid coffee. No more than one cup a day is recommended for pregnant women. It may not but it can stimulate heart palpitations and anxiety as well as disrupt sleep patterns and create rebound headaches. 

Coffee can decrease iron and calcium absorption, although a study released this summer shows it does not increase fracture rates in older individuals. 

For most people, coffee is an acquired taste. The mounting evidence regarding its health benefits would make this a habit worth pursuing. Multiple studies indicate that regardless of gender or race, caffeinated or decaffeinated, people who consume coffee live longer.

Dr. Steven Bayer is a neurologist residing in Flossmoor.

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