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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Coffee: The Good, the Bad, and the Yummy

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08:  Marg...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
By Natalie MacBride

A few years back, one morning news show made a joke about the most popular app for one PDA - a Starbucks locator. Although I got the joke - why would anyone need one when there seems to be a coffee shop on every corner? - I did sympathise with those who would spend the money buying the app. After all, I know how it feels to love coffee but not know where you can get one from!

However, with a renewed interest in certain health issues, I started to question whether my love of coffee was really something I should be so happy about. Thankfully, my research lead me to some facts that I think you'll also want to hear!

The Bad

Unfortunately there are a few bad things about coffee - nothing is perfect - so I'm going to get those out of the way first.

The most serious "problem" with coffee is from the Harvard School of Public Health who state that studies suggest that coffee may increase the chance of miscarriage and stillbirth when pregnant women drink it in large quantities. This data is still inconclusive, however.

I have to admit that that one is pretty serious, but HSPH's other concern seemed a bit of a stretch, if not downright frivolous, to me: The issue is that those who drink coffee on a regular basis, frequently also consume high-calorie things like cream, sugar, and flavored syrup, too. You can't blame the coffee for ordering the extras.

The Good

So after recognizing that pregnant women may want to reconsider their caffeine consumption, let's take a look at the benefits of drinking coffee. The list is impressive.

Diabetes: There are more than 15 published studies that examine the relationship between coffee and diabetes. One significant finding is that the caffeine in coffee raises blood sugar and increases short-term energy. And one interesting possibility involving coffee and health is that some of the antioxidants it contains can possibly improve insulin sensitivity and even help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Gallstones: Increasing the intake of caffeine can decrease the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease.

Heart Disease: Data from the HSPH indicates that "coffee consumption may modestly reduce risk of stroke." Another study is also cited, from the University Medical Center Utrecht, suggesting that moderate coffee consumption could slightly reduce the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).

Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer: One of the findings was that there was a link between drinking coffee, and reduced risk of cirrhosis and hepatic injury.

Parkinson's Disease: You can lower your risk of Parkinson's Disease by drinking coffee in moderation (meaning 1-3 cups a day).

Other: WebMD also cites research that indicates that coffee drinkers are less likely to have dementia, strokes, heart rhythm problems, and certain types of cancer, and I (as well as many others) know from personal experience the positive effect coffee can have on a headache or an asthmatic episode.

The Tasty

We all know that coffee tastes good, so there's not too much to say on this aspect! But what I will say is that you don't need to spend lots of money, or even leave your house, to get great tasting coffee thanks to modern brewing systems available to buy. Single-cup brewing systems are perfect for offering a huge variety of beverage choices.

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