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Five Reasons to Drink Coffee

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There's nothing unusual about so-called 'holistic' nutritionists embarrassing themselves by spouting spurious dietary advice. All too often this exposes their sheer inability to comprehend, or in fact even acknowledge the existence of, actual nutritional research. Coffee drinking is a prime example, which the holistic soothsayers have been merrily castigating long before Starbucks had so much as set foot on our high streets.

Of course, it's all utter nonsense. It's certainly true that coffee isn't for everyone. Examples include pregnant and breastfeeding women (where caffeine intake should be restricted), those sensitive to the effects of caffeine leading to anxiety or insomnia, and possibly those with certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure or osteoporosis. But whilst some people may need to avoid or restrict coffee, for the rest of us, the bulk of research shows that coffee is more healthful than harmful, and here are five reasons why.

1. Diabetes protection: Regular coffee drinking is associated with a striking protective effect against diabetes risk, greater than 60% in some studies (1). The effect appears to be dose-dependent, with a meta-analysis of 18 studies, incorporating almost half a million subjects, finding that every additional cup of coffee per day was associated with a 7% reduction in risk (2).

2. Hydration: It's a total fallacy that caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, have a diuretic effect and dehydrate the body. It's yet another example of a fictitious nutrition myth. In people who consume them regularly, caffeinated drinks such as coffee, hydrate the body and count perfectly well toward our daily fluid intake (3).

3. Brain protector: There is growing research that coffee drinking proffers protection against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (4, 5).

4. Antioxidants and phytonutrients: The classic mistake is to think that coffee = caffeine, end of. This couldn't be further from the truth. Coffee is a veritable treasure chest of naturally occurring antioxidants and beneficial phytonutrients, notably rich in the polyphenol chlorogenic acid. Blueberries and green tea step aside, we have a new antioxidant heavyweight in town.

5. Liver protector: The weird and wonderful world of 'detoxing' decrees that abstinence from coffee is mandatory if you are serious about ridding the body of toxins. How ironic then to discover that phytonutrient-rich coffee, rather than being a toxic nasty, is in fact likely to protect the liver, our organ of detoxification, from diseases such as cirrhosis and even liver cancer (6).

Be under no illusion, a cuppa joe is more friend than foe.

(1) Smith et al (2006) Diabetes Care 29:2385-2390
(2) Huxley et al (2009) Arch Intern Med 169(22)2053-2063
(3) Grandjean AC et al (2000) Journal of the American College of Nutrition 19(5):591-600
(4) Patil H et al (2011) Mo Med 108(6):431-8
(5) Wirdefeldt K et al (2011) Eur J Epidemiol 26 Suppl 1:S1-58
(6) Masterton and Hayes (2010) Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 22(11):1277-83

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