Antimicrobial soaps are useful in hospitals, but their value in homes is less clear, and their effect on the environment is not good. More >
The Health Effects of Caffeine
That morning cup of coffee you have to have may be even better for you than you know. Coffee appears to have several health benefits, according to three recent studies. It can reduce the risk of heart failure, stroke, and a common type of skin cancer, as well as improving the performance of aging muscles.
How and why coffee drinking seems to offer these protective effects is not fully understood. Coffee is rich in antioxidants, nutrients found in many vegetables that help prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are molecules that combine with free radicals and prevent them from causing any damage to important parts of the cell, such as DNA or the membrane encasing the cell.
Coffee also contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium, which help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose) and is likely responsible for the protection coffee seems to offer from type 2 diabetes.
What follows is a description of some recent studies showing the types of health protection a cup or two of joe can offer.
Reducing Heart Failure Risk
Regular, moderate coffee consumption significantly reduces the risk of heart failure, according to a meta-analysis which reviewed data from five European studies published between 2001 and 2011, The studies, four done in Sweden and one in Finland, included 6,522 incidences of heart failure among 140,220 men and women.(1)
The authors of the review, investigators at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the University of Alabama defined “moderate” coffee consumption as being equal to four Northern European servings (shots of espresso, 100-150 milliliters each) per day, or about two 8-ounce American servings. “Excessive” consumption was defined as ten Northern European servings per day, the equivalent of about four or five 9-20 ounce (295-590 milliliters) coffees from American coffee house chains.
The researchers did not elaborate on how coffee reduces heart failure risk, but previous findings suggest that people who drink coffee regularly develop a tolerance to the caffeine, which reduces their risk of high blood pressure, and greater coffee consumption equals a greater reduction in type 2 diabetes risk.(2)(3)(4) Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are two of the most important risk factors for heart failure.
It's important to keep in mind that current American Heart Association guidelines for heart failure prevention suggest that drinking coffee is not a good idea for heart patients.(5) In light of the current findings, these guidelines could be revised to recommend moderate coffee consumption, the authors said.