By James H. O’Keefe, MD
More than 150 million Americans enjoy a "cuppa joe" every day — it's the way they start their morning, re-charge their energy mid-day, or cap off a terrific meal. Amazingly, 80 to 90 percent of American adults drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages on a daily basis. Yet a burning question remains: is drinking coffee regularly good or bad for your health, specifically for your heart, blood vessels and brain?
A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to those who don't drink coffee, may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, serious heart rhythm problems, depression and neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. These potential benefits have been attributed in part to the antioxidants present in coffee as well as to moderate weight reduction, improved glucose metabolism and reduced inflammation also associated with regular coffee consumption.
Coffee has recently been recommended by a United States review panel to be consumed along with tea in greater quantities, especially as a substitute for high-calorie beverages, such as full-fat milk, diet soft drinks, fruit juices, alcohol, sports drinks and calorically sweetened, nutrient-poor beverages, like colas.
Several micronutrients found in coffee, including magnesium, potassium, niacin, caffeine and vitamin E, could contribute to the observed health effects that have been linked to coffee consumption. But beware, it is a beverage that you may become somewhat hooked on if you drink it daily. Predictable withdrawal symptoms from missing your morning "fix" of coffee include headache, irritability, anxiety, mild depression, sleepiness, inability to concentrate or focus, or even flu-like symptoms. These can occur even after missing as little as one cup of coffee a day! It is the caffeine that is habit forming, and pregnant women are advised to limit caffeine intake to not more than 200 mg per day.
The lesson here? Coffee can be habit-forming, but based on scientific research, with few exceptions, it appears to be a habit that's healthy for your heart and your mind. (P.S. Hold the cream and sugar, please).
Published: November 18, 2011.
James H. O'Keefe, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist at Cardiovascular Consultants and Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and co-author of The Forever Diet and Lifestyle.
Editor's note: This article is part of a special series brought to you by Missouri Medicine, the Medical Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA). MedHelp, Missouri Medicine, and MSMA are collaborating to educate and empower health consumers by making the latest scientific studies and medical research available to the public. Learn more about MSMA and see more from Missouri Medicine.
This is a summary of the article "Cuppa Joe: Friend or Foe?: Effects of Chronic Coffee Consumption on Cardiovascular and Brain Health" by Harshal Patil, MD, Carl J. Lavie, MD, and James H. O'Keefe, MD, which was originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of Missouri Medicine. The full article is available here.
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