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Monthly Archives: November 2016

W.H.O. Reverses Position on Coffee Causing Cancer

Coffee: Studies Show It to Be Beneficial for Health

There’s been a firestorm of rhetoric at intervals over the past century regarding coffee and its supposed dangers, and just as much supposition about its incredible health-boosting advantages. The Atlantic reported:

“In the early 1900s, doctors and health agencies warned that caffeine was essentially ‘poison,’ and that drinking coffee would cause ‘nerve storms,’ according to a 1912 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Nervous women, the newspaper cautioned, should abstain from coffee altogether. ‘Unsteady nerves are foes of beauty,’ it said.

… Over time, the debate about coffee — fueled by a combination of legitimate research, junk science, marketing and the rumor mill — has amounted to what the writer Andrew Revkin has called ‘whiplash journalism,’ in which sweeping conclusions about what’s good or bad for you contribute to a mess of contradictions.”3

Many in the scientific community have claimed for decades that coffee actually provides multiple health benefits. In fact, large reviews on the topic have come to the same conclusion that coffee can be erased from the “harmful” list of foods and placed on the “advantageous” list. According to The New York Times:

“Last year, a panel of scientists that shaped the federal government’s 2015 dietary guidelines said there was ‘strong evidence’ that three to five cups of coffee daily was not harmful, and that ‘moderate’ consumption might reduce chronic disease.

Another group, the World Cancer Research Fund International, reported that coffee protects against multiple types of cancer. And several systematic reviews of studies involving millions of people have found that regular coffee drinkers live longer than others.”4

The evidence is fairly convincing that coffee may not only lower your cancer risk, but also your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and neurological disorders.

Reports, Reviews, Evidence and Inconsistencies

It wasn’t that long ago — 1991, to be exact — that coffee was termed a “possible carcinogen” linked to bladder cancer. The recent announcement included the acknowledgment that there was simply a lack of evidence that coffee might cause cancer at all.

As a matter of fact, early reports on coffee had compared its hazards with those of lead and diesel fuel.

Those previous studies hadn’t taken into account that many of the coffee drinkers under scrutiny were also heavy smokers, according to Dana Loomis, Ph.D., first author of the report and deputy head of the WHO program focused on cancer-causing substance classifications. In addition, more up-to-date studies have become available.

When the group of 23 scientists from 10 countries met in Lyon, France, the issues surrounded the evidence for or against coffee, as well as “mate,” a tea-like, high-caffeine drink popular in South America.

The group reviewed more than 1,000 studies, submitted over decades, the upshot of which: coffee failed to show detriment to health in relation to prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers, as had been previously conjectured. In the case of uterine and liver cancers, coffee was linked to a lowered cancer risk.

Twenty other cancer types showed “inadequate” evidential links of coffee being a carcinogen; many showed beneficial associations.


Coffee Can Help You Live Longer

If you drink coffee, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that the more cups of coffee you drink, the higher your risk of dying early. The good news is that if you “risk adjust,” then the more cups of coffee you drink, the lower your risk of dying early. Let me explain.

According to a 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 400,000 AARP members were followed for 14 years, with a close survey of their coffee-drinking habits, diet and death.

Among men who drank six cups or more of coffee, 19 percent died early compared to 13 percent of the non-coffee drinkers. Among women who drank six cups or more of coffee, 15 percent died early compared to 10 percent of non-coffee drinkers. To an untrained person it would seem that coffee was detrimental to our health and we should stop at once.

However, people are more complex. As it turns out, the heavy coffee drinkers tended to be heavy smokers, heavy drinkers and red-meat eaters, all habits that can contribute to an earlier death.

So, in such situations, the statisticians do some “tweaking” to the data, formally called risk adjustment. This means that they take into account the higher risk of dying among smokers, drinkers and red-meat eaters and then they compare the population of coffee drinkers to coffee non-drinkers.

And, voila! The risk-adjusted finding is that drinking coffee not only is not harmful but it actually may be protective, like an aspirin, and it is dose-dependant, which means the more coffee you drink the lower your chances of dying.

For example, women who drank six cups or more of coffee had a 15 percent lower chance of dying early compared with those women who drank no coffee. Those who drank one cup of coffee had a 5 percent lower chance of dying than their non-coffee-drinking counterparts.

So I wondered is this just a play of numbers by statisticians or a genuine scientific finding. I think it is real. To the rejoicing of java drinkers across the world, a Japanese study found nearly a 17 percent reduction in death in those who drank six cups of coffee a day compared to one-cup-a-day coffee drinkers, while a study among health professionals found a 20 percent reduction.

When we look at the data in detail, heavy coffee drinkers had lower rates of heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness, diabetes and infections than non-coffee drinkers. Only cancer deaths were not lower.

You may be wondering what is in the coffee that is so beneficial. It’s the caffeine and the antioxidants in the coffee beans. Caffeine is found in medications for Parkinson’s disease, asthma, pain and headaches. One cup of drip-brewed coffee has three and a half times the caffeine of a cup of tea.

It’s mainly the antioxidants that have the major health benefits, so decaffeinated coffee drinkers need not worry. Antioxidants are chemicals that protect the cells from damage, disease and aging. We are encouraged to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables because of their antioxidant content, but one cup of coffee has more antioxidants than a serving of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries or oranges.

Coffee does have its down side. On a rare occasion, when I sip a cup of coffee I become a bit jittery and have to run to the restroom sooner than planned. For others, coffee causes tremulousness and increases their heart rate and blood pressure.

All this news about coffee is exciting for research scientists at Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Coffee Studies. (Honestly, such an institute exists as a division of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.) They study the potential therapeutic uses of coffee.

One other note: The AARP study was observational, not causal. That is: It does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. To scientifically prove that coffee reduces mortality rates, we would have to take a group, divide the participants in half, provide coffee to one group and restrict coffee from the other group and then look at mortality rates over 15 years. Obviously, no sane coffee drinkers or nondrinkers would subject themselves to such a study.

Until then, this is the best scientific finding we have, which is good if you are a coffee drinker. So drink up.

Coffee and Caffeine – How Much Should You Drink

How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Coffee?

Cup of Coffee

The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world.

The caffeine content in a cup of coffee is highly variable, ranging from 50 to 400+ mg per cup.

A small home-brewed cup of coffee could contain 50 mg, while a big 16 oz Starbucks grande can contain over 300 mg.

As a general rule, you can assume that an average 8 ounce cup of coffee contains around 100 mg of caffeine.

Several sources suggest that 400 mg of caffeine, or 4 cups of coffee, are safe for most healthy adults.

However, many people (including myself) drink much more than that without any issues.

Keep in mind that there are many other sources of caffeine besides coffee, including tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and certain medications.

Short-Term Symptoms of Too Much Caffeine

Businessman Wired From Too Much Coffee

When it comes to the health effects of coffee, there are both short- and long-term symptoms.

Let’s talk about the short-term symptoms first, which are mostly related to the caffeine itself.

Caffeine works primarily in the brain, where it affects the function of neurotransmitters and exerts a stimulant effect.

If you drink too much coffee in a short amount of time, you will experience symptoms mostly related to your brain and digestive system.

Here are some common symptoms of ingesting too much caffeine:

  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Dizziness.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Tremors.

If you experience such symptoms after drinking coffee, then you may be sensitive to caffeine and may want to cut back your intake (or simply avoid caffeine altogether).

It is possible to die from a caffeine overdose, but this is next to impossible to do with coffee alone. You would have to drink more than 100 cups in a single day.

Drinking Coffee Tied To Lower Risk Of Death

Reuters Health) – In a 10-year U.S. study, people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die of many causes, including heart disease and diabetes, than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

The more coffee study participants consumed, the lower their risk of dying, and decaf drinkers showed a similar pattern.

“Coffee contains numerous biologically active compounds, including phenolic acids, potassium, and caffeine,” said lead author Dr. Erikka Loftfield of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland.

Many studies have found that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of overall and heart-related mortality, Loftfield told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers used data from a previous study on 90,317 adults without cancer or history of cardiovascular disease who were followed from 1998 through 2009. They had reported their coffee intake, along with other dietary and health details, at the start of the study.

By 2009, about 8,700 people had died. After accounting for other factors like smoking, the researchers found that coffee drinkers were less likely to have died during the study than nondrinkers.

The risk of death was lowest for those who drank four to five cups of coffee per day. A similar association was seen among drinkers of decaffeinated coffee as well, according to the results in American Journal of Epidemiology.

Coffee drinkers had a reduced risk of death from heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, pneumonia and influenza and suicide, but not cancer, the researchers found.

“Although coffee drinking has also been inversely associated with incidence of certain cancers, like liver, in epidemiological studies, we did not observe an association between coffee and overall cancer mortality,” Loftfield said. “This may be because coffee reduces mortality risk for some cancers but not others.”

People who consumed two to three cups of coffee per day had approximately an 18 percent lower risk death during follow-up compared to those who reported drinking no coffee, she said. Drinking up to five cups per day, or 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, is not associated with any long-term health risks, Loftfield added.

Moderate caffeine intake, up to 200 milligrams per day, is even safe for pregnant women, according to a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“There is an accumulating number of studies of very high quality that show that people who drink more coffee tend to have better health outcomes,” said Dr. Marc J. Gunter of Imperial College London, who was not part of the new study.

“Coffee drinking is correlated with other health behaviors,” and those who drink it regularly may have other healthy habits, like exercising and keeping to a healthier diet, though the researchers tried to account for those other factors, Gunter told Reuters Health.

The study doesn’t prove that coffee extends life.

“You could argue that people who are already sick might not be drinking as much coffee,” Gunter said.

But coffee may also have a direct effect on inflammation or cardiovascular health, he said.

“It doesn’t seem to do you any harm, if you like drinking coffee then carry on,” Gunter said.

Coffee can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and it may even do some good, though we can’t yet recommend than non-drinkers adopt the habit for health reasons, he said.