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Volcropped-graphic-e1423682891979ume 11, Number 12

A behavior in which most Americans engage every day is drinking coffee. Estimates are that perhaps more than 80% of adults in the United States regularly drink coffee, and the most commonly cited amount is an average of three cups per day. Worldwide, the only beverage that is consumed more than coffee is water. What are the health implications of coffee consumption?

Some years ago it was thought that drinking coffee was bad for health. However, in recent years, prospective and randomized studies, along with several large meta-analyses of such studies, are indicating that moderate coffee consumption (defined as 3-5 cups per day) is associated with reduced mortality from all causes. The relationship between coffee consumption and mortality appears to be non-linear, that is, persons who drink no coffee or just drink it occasionally, and those who drink excessive amount of coffee, have higher relative risks of death than do moderate/regular coffee drinkers.

There is less research to date on the health effects of decaffeinated coffee, but the available evidence suggests that it has similar health benefits. Therefore, it may be that the beneficial effect of coffee consumption is coming not from the caffeine, but from other components in coffee such as chlorogenic acid, which is known to have antioxidant properties (although roasting coffee beans breaks down chlorogenic acid).

One caveat about coffee consumption is that many persons add significant amounts of cream, sugar, or other additives which can quickly increase the number of calories consumed. This is one caution given the increasing numbers of persons in our society that are overweight or obese.

Many of my e-quilibrium posts have concluded with recommendations that “more of this” or “less of that” is good for health. With respect to coffee drinking, according to recent data about coffee consumption and its relationship to health, the take-home message appears to be “keep doing what you are doing” — if you are in the 3-5 cups per day range.

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