Does your day begin with a cuppa joe? Most days you do need that caffeine shot to get you through the day. Over the years, coffee has been at the receiving end of some serious bad press. It has been blamed for everything from hypertension to cancer. Yet, from time to time, respected medical journals put out articles claiming that coffee is actually good for you! So what is the truth?

Those in Favour…

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) carried out a study involving 130,000 volunteers in their 40s and 50s, tracking their diet and lifestyle for more than 20 years (up to their death). The study did not find any link between their coffee consumption and an increased risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Rob van Dam Assistant Professor at HSPH says that this study “is an important message because people have been seeing coffee drinking as an unhealthy habit, along the lines of smoking and excessive drinking”. Another study published in the American Heart Association's (AHA) report on stroke found that people who drank at least one cup of coffee every day lowered their risk of stroke by 20%. Several other studies have put forth other benefits of drinking coffee - reduced risk of developing Type II Diabetes, lowering your risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and also warding off skin cancer. It's important to note that these studies consider a moderate level of coffee consumption - two to three cups only in most cases.

Those Against…

A Finnish study of 19,000 subjects found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have twice the chance of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis. A study of post-menopausal women found that those who had two cups of coffee per day showed greater bone density loss. Coffee has also been linked to disrupted sleep patterns, irritability and tremors. Research is divided over coffee's effect on cardiac risk. While the AHA's study (mentioned above) showed lower incidence of stroke, a Greek study showed that people who drank more than one cup of coffee have a higher risk of heart disease. Studies have also found that an individual's genetic make-up can actually determine to what extent she is affected by coffee consumption. As they say, one man's meat is another man's poison.

Icing on Top

There are literally thousands of studies analysing coffee - some of them declare it to be a beneficial drink while others pan it completely. Why does this conflict of opinion occur? As Dr. van Dam says “Coffee is a complex beverage with hundreds of different compounds, which can lead to diverse health outcomes. Hence it appears to be good for some things and bad for others”. One thing that even the pro-coffee camp agrees with is that you're doing yourself no favours by adding sugar and flavoured syrups to your coffee, topping it up with cream or opting for the ‘tall' cup.

Moderation is the key - a cup or two of coffee every day isn't likely to do much harm. So say hello to your morning espresso or cappuccino and drink up without going on a guilt trip. Just stay clear of the caramel macchiato though!

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