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Coffee's clean bill of health

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)


Is there a more beautiful word in the English language?

My beloved morning cuppa is even more beloved than usual today as I, like millions of other Americans, cope with the loss of an hour's sleep Saturday night/Sunday morning. It will take some of us days, maybe weeks to catch up and start feeling right again.

One of my favorite health blogs, the L.A. Times's Booster Shots, did this neat roundup of the potential ill effects of daylight saving time on our health. It's sobering.

Of course, there's no better cure for the loss of sleep than, well, sleep. But most of us don't have the luxury of staying in bed an extra hour. For better or worse, many will rely on coffee to carry us through this drowsy day.

It hasn't been long since the medical community feared that coffee consumption might increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Many of us remember with fear the scare over a purported link between coffee-drinking and pancreatic cancer. That's been fully debunked.

More recent evaluations of coffee's effects on our health paint a much happier picture. The inky brew is credited with helping to ward off Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease and colon cancer.

Most recently, and surprisingly, research presented at an American Heart Association conference earlier this month found that people who drink a lot of coffee are at decreased risk of hospitalization for heart arrhythmia. No cause-and-effect was established, but still, the news is encouraging to those of us who wonder whether our coffee habit is hurting our hearts.

So I'm going to fully enjoy my coffee today and every day without worrying about it harming my health. In any case, I have much bigger worries on my mind this morning. After all, it is the Ides of March.

Sip your coffee while you check in with us on Twitter: The other Local Living writers and I are at @wposthome/local-living. And keep track of my "Me Minus 10" effort to lose 10 pounds before I turn 50 at

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 15, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , General Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Psychology  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is That Right? Better-for-you fruit drinks?
Next: "Eating for two"? Think again.


Dam I love coffee!

Posted by: rmk1122 | March 15, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm fine with coffee. I'm glad to learn that it has not increased heart attacks. I'd just like for coffee drinkers to admit that they are drug addicts.

Posted by: rjma1 | March 15, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Drug addicts? What tripe is that?

Keep your hand OFF my coffee!!!

Posted by: Sitka1 | March 15, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

rjma1: Err, why? Can I qualify for federal funds to pay for my addiction to high priced beans and snazzy Italian grinders? Where do I sign up? I drink a daily glass of wine too, and I'm looking forward to outliving the self-righteous consumption control freaks with a nice piece of super-dark chocolate in my 90 year-old hand. Cheers!

Posted by: greyK | March 15, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, who needs weeks to adjust to a one hour time change? I think you need to link to something for that one.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | March 15, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Coffee: You can sleep when you're dead.

Posted by: barferio | March 15, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

People in Europe live longer not because of coffee or wine, but because they walk more often and consistently.

People in American cities with fewer cars and more buses and subways also live longer.

Although it is changing, most Europeans eat slowly and with attention to appetite not quantity of food. Rarely do you see the heaped plates of food as in American restaurants where the American overeats.

A stressful work lunch, with a heaped plate and the waiters pushing you out the door, is not good for Americans.

But Americans are unwilling to adjust their day to accommodate a longer unpaid lunch with a later hour returning home. That may be due to the urban sprawl making transit longer and unavoidable, but these societal changes occur by choice or complacency.

Posted by: lambdaenigma | March 15, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I don't buy into the coffee craze. Your body has ways of telling you when you are trying to do too much. You can either listen and adjust your schedule or you can try to numb it and keep on going. Although I don't drink coffee (or soda) at all, I can see why some people use it on occasion at particularly busy moments in their lives. But if you NEED IT EVERY DAY, then you are addicted to the caffeine and you will have to crash eventually.

Consider this quote from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "You go down to the mess. You have your coffee at five in the afternoon, and it just doesn't do anything," Gibbs lamented. "Because you realize you're so far behind [in sleep] that a jolt -- you don't even feel it."

Posted by: Pedalada | March 15, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"people who drink a lot of coffee are at decreased risk of hospitalization for heart arrhythmia"

Isn't it obvious? People who drink a lot of coffee are USED to heart arrhythmia--so they don't go to the hospital when it happens.

Posted by: jjjunob | March 15, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, not buying the studies that coffee is completely harmless or is somehow good for you. Sure, it is far from the worst thing you can ingest, but let's not pretend that it prevents cancer.

Posted by: Axel2 | March 15, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Anyone agree that those here who make a comment citing various harmful effects of coffee consumption don’t drink coffee??!! Kind of like offering parenting advice but you’ve never had any kids. I personally am all over the map with regards to the effect of, and “hold”, that coffee has had on me in my 40+ years of drinking it:

* I drank coffee from morning till night until I got pregnant. Then, I quit coffee cold-turkey for the duration of my pregnancy, drinking decaf instead and never missing the real thing.
* After giving birth I continued with decaf until I was past breastfeeding my baby, at which time I switched back to regular (caffeinated) coffee.
* Coming home after work to my little ones, I sometimes was so tired that I would drink a cup of coffee while reading their bedtime stories so I wouldn’t fall asleep while reading to them (it didn’t always help!)
* Now that my kids are grown, I don’t need to keep awake into the evening and so don’t drink as late in the day as I used to, but I still enjoy the stuff. Most weekday mornings I have a cup, and on weekends it is part of my day because I just enjoy the smell and taste of a good cup of coffee. But in the summer I either don’t drink it or have an iced coffee instead.
* I don’t feel any edginess unless I’ve overdone it because (yes) I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. But those instances are so rare.

Posted by: silverspringDemocrat | March 15, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

While we worry and fret about coffee and the heart, we seldom hear the basic fact that the number one controllable cause of heart disease is cigarettes. Apparently the one thing that media reports can almost never bring themselves to do is mention that simple fact. And put all the other minor, possible, possibly not-even causes into perspective.

As long as 50 million Americans are customers to tobacco product, talk of other causes of heart disease is largely a waste of time.

Posted by: jpk1 | March 19, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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