Dear Doctors: Where do we stand for coffee these days? There always seems to be new research that says coffee is either good or bad for you. I even read that coffee helps the brain stay sharp. I love my daily morning cup and hope the most recent coffee news is good.

Dear Reader: Ever since people have been drinking coffee, they have been arguing about it. Historians trace coffee’s origins to wild plants native to Ethiopia and its rise as a global beverage to the mid-1400s. Over the centuries, various religious, political, economic, and medical prohibitions on coffee have been introduced, to no avail.

Today, people around the world drink approximately 2.25 billion cups of this drink every day. And instead of arguing about coffee, we switched to studying it. In the early days of coffee research, coffee enthusiasts came to disturbing conclusions that linked their morning cup to health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, pancreatic cancer, and asthma. It was later revealed that these studies involved smokers and that the side effects were likely due to tobacco use and not coffee consumption.

New research is revealing a sometimes surprising range of potential health benefits for coffee drinkers in moderation. These include a lower risk of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and liver and endometrial cancer. And while the stimulating effect of caffeine is the main reason for coffee’s popularity, it’s unlikely that it plays a role in the health benefits. Scientists suspect that this is due to dozens of other complex compounds found in coffee.

In recent months, a new study has been published with a lot of good news about coffee. A study published last fall in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience examined the effects of coffee consumption on cognitive decline in 227 adults aged 60 years. None of them had memory problems. The health questionnaire they were given included questions about how much coffee each person drank and how often. Cognitive abilities were assessed every 18 months during the 10-year study. When the study concluded, data showed an association between daily coffee consumption and lower and slower rates of cognitive decline and cognitive impairment.

A recent study in China linked coffee drinking to increased life expectancy. The researchers followed the health of about 170,000 adults in their 50s for seven years. None had cancer or heart disease. The data showed that those who drank a moderate amount of coffee each day – between two and five cups – were less likely to die during the study. Interestingly, the health benefits even extended to those coffee drinkers who added a teaspoon of sugar to their cup. The use of artificial sweeteners and the addition of dairy products and artificial cream were not considered.

It is important to remember that the caffeine in coffee can interfere with sleep and cause jitters. And, as we wrote in a recent column, older adults, who often metabolize caffeine more slowly, may need to adjust their habits as they age.

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