These days, coffee is practically a universal part of our modern workplace condition. Many of us harbor some secret fear that the gallons of brown liquid we’re slurping every day is doing us no good. We cling to scraps of evidence — like this one suggesting coffee contributes to your daily recommended fluid intake — showing that coffee in superhuman amounts is safe. And we pour ourselves another when a new study comes out implying the stuff can make us even healthier than we already are.
Lately, coffee addicts have been winning little victories every few weeks. This time, it’s a double win: a pair of studies suggesting that something about the drink may contain anti-aging and cancer-fighting properties.
One study, presented last week to the Society for Experimental Biology, appears to show an appreciable benefit in the muscle strength of mice who’ve been given caffeine. Researchers from Coventry University examined two main muscles — the diaphragm and a key leg muscle called the extensor digitorum longus — in their test animals before and after the treatment. They noticed a strong link between caffeine intake and better muscle performance among adult mice, with a somewhat weaker relationship for elderly subjects and a small, though still measurable, effect on juvenile mice. The scientists say their findings could be significant for people heading into their golden years, as muscles tend to weaken with age — increasing the likelihood of trips, falls and other mishaps. Who wouldn’t want to be able to maintain their muscle tone by sipping a cup of joe every morning?
The second of the two studies suggests that a moderate intake of caffeinated coffee is associated with a decreased risk for a common skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma. Continue reading
MILWAUKEE — One of life’s simple pleasures just got a little sweeter. After years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease, a big study finds the opposite: Coffee drinkers are a little more likely to live longer. Regular or decaf doesn’t matter.
The study of 400,000 people is the largest ever done on the issue, and the results should reassure any coffee lovers who think it’s a guilty pleasure that may do harm.
“Our study suggests that’s really not the case,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute. “There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking.”
No one knows why. Coffee contains a thousand things that can affect health, from helpful antioxidants to tiny amounts of substances linked to cancer. The most widely studied ingredient — caffeine — didn’t play a role in the new study’s results.
It’s not that earlier studies were wrong. There is evidence that coffee can raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, and blood pressure at least short-term, and those in turn can raise the risk of heart disease.
Even in the new study, it first seemed that coffee drinkers were more likely to die at any given time. But they also tended to smoke, drink more alcohol, eat more red meat and exercise less than non-coffee-drinkers. Once researchers took those things into account, a clear pattern emerged: Each cup of coffee per day nudged up the chances of living longer.
The study was done by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. The results are published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Careful, though — this doesn’t prove that coffee makes people live longer, only that the two seem related. Continue reading