After centuries of bad press, the world’s favorite pick-me-up is finally getting some credit. New studies show that coffee can actually be good for you.
Though it has been blamed for everything from impotence to cancer, coffee is undoubtedly the stimulant of choice for billions of people everywhere. Though 12th on the list for per capita consumption, the US is the largest national consumer and according to the National Coffee Association, 80% of Americans drink coffee. In fact, the average American drinks 3.4 cups every day, adding up to a whopping national total of 146 billion cups per year.
Coffee has always been controversial. It’s the only beverage to ever get an official Papal endorsement (in 1600 Pope Clement VIII declared coffee to be a Christian drink), but in the late 17th century England the widely-circulated Women’s Petition Against Coffee declared it “an abominable and heathenish liquor” and blamed it for making husbands into eunuchs.
By the 20th century coffee was more popular than ever, but studies seemed to be revealing some scary correlations between the brew and several serious illnesses, including heart attacks, birth defects, osteoporosis, and cancer.
However, new research indicates that fragrant, steaming cup of Java doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. It now appears that many of the 70s and 80s studies on coffee were flawed and coffee isn’t the dietary demon it was once thought to be. Not only that, it looks like moderate consumption can actually be beneficial.
Coffee may help protect the liver from the effects of alcohol. In a Kaiser Permanente study, heavy drinkers who consumed four cups of coffee per day reduced their risk of cirrhosis of the liver by 80%.
Coffee may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that men who drank more than six cups of coffee per day had a 50% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who drank six or more cups per day lowered their risk by 30%.
Coffee can help prevent gallstones. A ten-year Harvard study of more than 46,000 men showed that those who drank at least two cups per day were 40% less likely to develop gallstones.
Coffee can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Research in Finland and Sweden indicates that moderate coffee consumption during middle age can significantly lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia in the elderly. Study participants who drank from three to five cups per day 65%-70% decreased risk of dementia and a 62%-64% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s.