While coffee has had its share of negatives in the past, new studies are now finding that your daily java actually offers a lot of positive health benefits. According to Stacy Beeson, R.D., a wellness dietitian at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, "Coffee comes from plants, which have helpful phytochemicals that act as antioxidants." Some studies indicate coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type II diabetes. One reason is that coffee contains antioxidants, substances that may protect against the effects of free radicals that can damage cells. Some of these antioxidants increase insulin sensitivity, thereby helping to regulate insulin in the body. A recent Harvard University study of 126,000 coffee drinkers over an 18 year period found that drinking coffee cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in women by 30 percent and in men by 54%. The popular drink is also being credited for cutting the risks of heart disease, Parkinson's disease, cirrhosis and gallstones, as well as some cancers, including colon and ovarian. And coffee's antioxidants may also play a role in reducing heart disease, especially in women.
Drinking joe gives your brain a boost. While it may seem like the caffeine jolts would adversely affect a person’s heart-health, studies are finding that coffee has no immediate or long term effect on heart disease. In fact, coffee may actually cut a person's chances of dying from heart disease, according to a study led by Esther Lopez-Garcia of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain. Researchers followed 84,214 U.S. women from 1980 to 2004 and 41,736 U.S. men from 1986 to 2004. The study found that women who reported drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease than women who did not drink coffee. The researchers saw a smaller decreased risk for men but it was not statistically significant.
Beeson notes that two to three cups of coffee a day is fine for most people. But if you experience a racing heart, anxiety or trouble sleeping, you may want to cut back on your caffeine, especially later in the day, or switch to decaffeinated coffee. And if you're pregnant or low on calcium, it's best to consult with your doctor about the best brew for you.
While coffee may never join fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein on the food pyramid, doctors may soon be telling their patients to "eat your veggies and drink your coffee."
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