Remember when a cup of coffee was almost a guilty pleasure? In the past, coffee has been blamed for everything from heart disease and premature death to stunting your growth. It turns out that the "experts" didn't know beans about coffee. Recent research shows that drinking even up to six cups a day won't increase your risk of heart problems, cancer, or dying prematurely from any disease. In fact, a study found that Americans get more health-promoting antioxidants from coffee than anything else, because our bodies absorb antioxidants found in coffee better than those in fruits and vegetables.
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In the very latest study, researchers at Cornell University found that coffee protects eyes from retinal degeneration due to glaucoma, aging, and diabetes. Although coffee contains only about 1 percent caffeine, it contains 7 percent to 9 percent chlorogenic acid (CLA), a powerful antioxidant. In the study, mice were treated with nitric oxide, which creates sight-damaging free radicals, but mice that were pretreated with CLA didn't develop retinal damage.
Instead of causing health problems, dozens of studies show that coffee protects against many diseases including, diabetes and some cancers. Check seven additional ways coffee can give your health a boost:
PROTECTS AGAINST HEART FAILURE. Drinking two cups of coffee each day helps protect against heart failure, says a study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation: Heart Failure. The study found that two servings — about 8 ounces each — reduced the risk of heart failure by 11 percent. "This is good news for coffee drinkers, of course, but it also may warrant changes to the current heart failure prevention guidelines, which suggest that coffee drinking may be risky for heart patients," said lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "It now appears that a couple of cups of coffee per day may actually help protect against heart failure."
LOWERS DEPRESSION. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that women who drink at least four cups of coffee daily decreased their risk of depression by 20 percent compared to coffee "teetotalers." Just two to three cups a day lowered risk by 15 percent. But shun decaf — it doesn't offer the same protection. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed more than 50,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study for 10 years.
THWART ALZHEIMER'S. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that drinking at least three cups of coffee a day could prevent the onset of the mind-robbing disease. Scientists from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami studied people aged 65 to 88 who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). They found that 100 percent of patients who had high levels of caffeine in their blood (the equivalent of drinking several cups) did not develop full-blown Alzheimer's during the follow-up that lasted two to four years. "These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee — about three cups a day — will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease — or at least they will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s," said the study lead author, neuroscientist Dr. Chuanhai Cao.
Drinking coffee during midlife can slash your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as you age. A Finnish study found that those who drank coffee at midlife had a lower risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in late-life than those who drank no coffee at all. Those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk by 65 percent.
REDUCES RECURRING BREAST CANCER. Drinking two cups of coffee daily decreases the risk of breast cancer returning by half in patients who are also taking the cancer-fighting drug tamoxifen. The drug is a common hormone therapy used after breast cancer surgery and blocks estrogen receptors. Sweden's Lund University followed breast cancer patients for five years and found that those who reported drinking at least two cups of coffee daily reported less than half the rate of recurrence compared with non-coffee drinkers. Researchers believe that coffee activates tamoxifen and makes it more efficient.
EASES PARKINSON'S SYMPTOMS. Drinking several cups of coffee each day can help victims of Parkinson's disease control their movements, according to an article published in the online medical journal Neurology. Patients with Parkinson’s disease who showed symptoms of motor impairment and daytime sleepiness were given either a placebo or a pill with 100 milligrams of caffeine two times a day for three weeks, then 200 milligrams twice a day for three weeks, which was the equivalent of between two and four cups of coffee per day. After six weeks, people taking the caffeine supplement showed improvement controlling movement as well as speed of movement and amount of stiffness.
CUTS DIABETES. Sipping four or more cups of coffee throughout the day may cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50 percent, says a study published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry. Other studies have found similar results with both regular and decaffeinated coffee. The healthful benefits could be due to antioxidants and magnesium found in coffee or to the possibility that coffee may block a faulty substance (human islet amyloid polypeptide or hIAPP) that has been implicated in causing Type 2 diabetes.
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