After years of hearing about caffeine’s adverse effects and about how all those cups you down don’t contribute to your daily fluid intake, a number of studies (one, admittedly, about mice) have found some unexpected health benefits. The Atlantic’s Brian Fung reviews them.
1. Coffee improves muscle tone. In a study presented at the Society for Experimental Biology, researchers from Coventry University found a “strong link” between caffeine intake and better muscle performance among adult mice; the link was not as strong for older mice. In juvenile animals, researchers found a small effect. They suggest that their findings could be “significant for people heading into their golden years, as muscles tend to weaken with age.”
2. Coffee, in moderate amounts, appears to be associated with a lowered risk for basal cell carcinoma, a common skin cancer. Harvard researcher Jiali Han, after reviewing records for nearly 113,000 men and women in two databases, found that nearly 20 percent had developed this type of skin cancer over two decades. He also found an “inverse relationship between those who ate or drank caffeinated foods or beverages (coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.) and their risk for the cancer.”
The study did not find a link between coffee consumption and other types of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
3. Coffee reduces the risk of some other cancers: prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer and colon cancer. It has, though, been shown to increase risk for urinary tract cancer and lung cancer.
4. Coffee protects your heart. Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health found that moderate coffee consumption was linked to a lower risk of heart failure. However, too many cups could increase your risk for heart problems: Moderation is the word.
5. Coffee may actually contribute to your overall fluid intake. So writes La Trobe University lecturer Spero Tsindos in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, in contradiction to the notion that coffee, due to its caffeine content, leads to dehydration.
6. Coffee decreases the risk of death. A National Institutes of Health study found that men who drink coffee can reduce their risk for death by 12 percent after four to five cups of coffee, while women who drink the same amount reduce their risk of death by 16 percent. However, coffee drinkers were also said to be “more likely to die,” a seeming contradiction. The reason is that most coffee drinkers also smoke, so you would need to stop smoking for your coffee drinking to lower your risk of death.
Just don’t tell me that Starbucks (“Big Coffee”) is funding any of these studies.
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