Coffee: A Miracle Drug?

As I write this post, my husband brings me my morning cup of coffee in what has become our daily ritual. I drink mine black, the way my mother likes hers. It is definitely an acquired taste, one I didn’t have until after my first son was born 24 years ago. It’s hard to believe I made it through college, medical school and residency training without caffeine, but I did. Now I wonder if I should have started drinking it sooner.

Large bodies of new evidence demonstrate that coffee, the world’s most widely used stimulant, contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-mutagenic compounds that play a role in reducing a variety of medical and mental health conditions. Here’s what we know:

  • Coffee consumption lowers overall mortality by more than 10 percent.
  • Moderate coffee intake is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease, and an average of two cups a day protects against heart failure.
  • Consuming coffee may decrease stroke risk by 25 percent.
  • Regular coffee intake is linked to improved glucose metabolism and decreased risk for type II diabetes.
  • Heavy coffee consumption can decrease the risk for numerous cancers, including endometrial, prostate, head and neck, and some skin and breast cancers.
  • Coffee appears to slow the progression of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Coffee drinkers have significantly less depression.
  • Drinking coffee might protect the liver.
  • Coffee may protect against dry eye syndrome, gout and MRSA infections.
Now for the potential risks:
  • Coffee can increase risks for anxiety, insomnia, tremors and glaucoma.
  • Caffeine is addictive, and withdrawal can cause headaches, sleepiness, irritability, constipation, lethargy, depression and lack of concentration.
  • Coffee can be associated with gastric reflux and heartburn.
  • Miscarriage may be twice as likely in women consuming two or more cups of coffee daily.
  • Coffee consumption may be associated with delayed conception.

Mounting medical evidence suggests that, for many people, drinking coffee is healthful, and the more the better. But for some, including women who are pregnant or are trying to conceive, it may be wise to limit consumption to one cup per day.

For once, it’s nice to hear that something we enjoy may actually be good for us.

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