Percolator or drip? Decaf or regular? Flavored or plain? Milk or cream? Sugar? There are so many questions coffee drinkers answer. But there may be issues more critical than whether to add whip cream. Coffee has been around for centuries but recent reports about the drink’s health effects may leave consumers confused.
“The conflicting reports arise from studies that often give different answers. This may result from the fact that they are usually observational studies and merely measure observed disease differences between individuals with different habits. This type of study is prone to distortion by all sorts of other lifestyle differences between individuals,” explained David Spreadbury, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and nutrition at Des Moines University. “Different groups in the population may also respond in different ways.”
Research, however, does appear to show that coffee reduces the risk of cirrhosis (chronic liver disease) and liver cancer. The Iowa Women’s Health Study determined that coffee may reduce cardiovascular risks in post-menopausal women, perhaps a benefit of the inflammation-reducing antioxidants in coffee. The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed 15 studies and concluded that regular coffee drinkers were less prone to type 2 diabetes and had less risk of Parkinson’s disease. The caffeine in coffee may also stimulate the brain and can reduce headaches. Reducing consumption, however, can induce headaches.
One thing for java junkies to consider, even in light of the positive effects it may have, is moderation.
“The absence of harmful effects and perhaps benefits come from studies of moderate coffee drinkers, usually defined as three to four cups per day. Once you get much above this you are in unknown territory and the situation may be different,” Dr. Spreadbury warned.
One negative effect of coffee may be an increase in blood pressure so if you have hypertension, you may want to reconsider your morning brew. Also, the caffeine in coffee may bother people with an irregular heartbeat.
“Most of the possible benefits and any detrimental effects are linked to the drinking of regular coffee so it’s not clear how decaffeinated would compare,” Dr. Spreadbury said. “Clearly when an adverse effect in an individual is linked to caffeine a switch to decaffeinated would be an advantage.”
Dr. Spreadbury also pointed out that caffeine isn’t the only thing to monitor when guzzling a good morning brew; calorie content should also be a consideration. Specialty coffee drinks like a medium-sized cappuccino or mocha may include 400-600 calories.