2014

The Power of Good

Power of Good Health Monthly Column

Cognitive Decline
The fear of losing one’s mind outranks both heart disease and cancer as the primary health fear of older Americans. In his WebMD interview, Frank Hu addressed findings that indicate a lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, among drinkers of caffeinated coffee. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden investigated 1,400 people for 20 years. Of these, those who reported drinking three to five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less-likely to develop dementia than occasional or non-drinkers. In addition, long-term coffee intake has a dose-dependent association with improved cognitive function and memory; plus, it protects primary neuronal cells.

Perhaps one of the most promising studies to date involves mice and the reversal of Alzheimer’s disease. In the 2010 study published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, mice that were fed the equivalent of five cups of coffee per day showed that brain damage began to reverse after only five weeks.

An earlier study that was conducted in 2009 showed that caffeine decreases both blood and brain levels of amyloid-beta, a substance involved in the development of the disease. As of now, the mechanism for this decrease in Alzheimer’s damage is not known. However, it is thought that the caffeine in coffee works synergistically with other compounds.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeinated coffee has also been associated with the protection against Parkinson’s disease. The journal, Movement Disorders, reported that one to four cups daily decreased risk by 47 percent, while more than five cups of coffee lowered that risk to 60 percent.

Cancer
It is believed that coffee might have anti-cancer properties. However, the evidence for a cancer protective effect is much weaker than that for type 2 diabetes. The effects appear to be related to the protection of DNA. A 2011 study, published by BMC Cancer (BiomedCentral.com), found that regular coffee drinkers enjoyed a 13 percent lower risk of cancers, while for those drinking high levels, the risk was reduced by 18 percent.1 This was an aggregate protection for prostate, breast, colorectal, pharyngeal, esophageal, pancreatic, bladder, endometrial, and liver cancers.2

Liver cancer is one area where coffee drinking shows strong protective results. This is particularly important because liver cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and it is on the rise among Americans. From his research, Hu comments, “All of the studies have shown that high coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.”

Although it is not understood how this may work, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee has a salutary effect on liver metabolism. According to a study in the Annals of Epidemiology, those drinking four cups of coffee daily showed an 84 percent lower risk of cirrhosis. In addition, patients with hepatitis B or C are less likely to develop nonalcoholic cirrhosis if they are also coffee drinkers.

Possibly connected to reduce cholesterol produced by the coffee-deluged liver, coffee drinkers are also less likely to suffer symptomatic gallstone disease.

Miscellaneous Perks
If you are a coffee drinker, some of these may be familiar to you!

1.    Coffee works as an antidepressant. A study of over 50,000 women who drank four cups of coffee daily had a 20 percent lower risk of depression. Coffee drinkers are also less likely to commit suicide.

2.    The beloved coffee beverage has been shown to lower the occurrence of kidney stones in women by about ten percent (both caffeinated and decaffeinated).

3.    Coffee reduces pain and increases energy and endurance in athletes.

4.    When taken two hours before exercise, coffee curtails exercise-induced asthma.

5.    It encourages regularity. It increases the numbers and metabolic activity of bifid bacteria when three cups of coffee are consumed daily. These important intestinal bacteria, which are sometimes found in yogurt, can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and increase mineral absorption.

Next Time: The Way Coffee Works, Green Coffee Beans and Weight Loss

Footnotes:
1    BMC Cancer is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of cancer research.
2    Breast Cancer Research has reported that postmenopausal women consuming five cups of coffee per day showed a 57 percent decrease in their risk of developing a specific type of cancer called ER-negative, non-hormone responsive. (May 14, 2011)

Siri Khalsa is the editor of Nutrition News, and she has been writing for the publication for many years. She has the passion and dedication to educate readers on the health benefits on tea and coffee.

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