OK, before I say one thing about this topic, we need to set the mood by playing this very short audio clip. Make sure the sound is turned up on your computer or mobile device and click the “play” arrow.
This is going to be epic:
Hallelujah! Yes, indeed, the medical community has determined that drinking coffee is not only probably not bad for you, it may actually be good for you.
Here I am celebrating (undoubtedly after having had a couple cups):
That news is proof of a divine being, I say.
Java and me
So why am I so excited? Well first of all, I really like my coffee. I drink it every single day of my life. I’m down with espresso, latte, cappuccino. I’ll take French pressed, cold pressed, dripped, percolated, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and my latest favorite: the pour over.
As an aside, if you click the pour over link there is a jazzy short little video on making this cup of heaven. I recently bought a pour over in a Washington DC coffee shop and two things happened: 1) I fell in love with that one cup of coffee, and 2) I was out something like 6 bucks for that one cup of coffee.
A cup of Joe is the centerpiece of my Sunday morning ritual after doing the Healthy Matters radio show – where I go to the local patisserie, sit down with a cinnamon-pecan pull-apart and a cafe latte and read the New York Times. If I’m lucky I get one of the comfy chairs by the fireplace. Heaven.
I have sometimes thought that if I were ever stranded on an island with only the possibility of one consumable food or beverage to see me through, it would be coffee.
So you can imagine my Midwest-Scandinavian-heritage guilt trip drinking java all these years knowing that coffee may actually be bad for me. In fact, that is what many of us have thought for a long time, that coffee may cause all sorts of problems, not least among them being bladder cancer. Yikes.
As it turns out, many coffee drinkers get bladder cancer. But as it turns out, many of those people who drank coffee and got bladder cancer a few decades ago were also cigarette smokers. And we know cigarette smoking can lead to bladder cancer (in fact it is the greatest risk factor for developing bladder cancer Now you know).
But recently the good people at none other than the World Health Organization have come to the rescue. They reviewed over 1000 medical studies about coffee and concluded that coffee may actually be good for you. Probably doesn’t cause cancer. In fact, it may reduce your risk of colon cancer, uterus, and liver cancer.
So in effect they “de-listed” coffee as a carcinogen.
It’s not often that the scientific community gives the green light to something once thought to actually cause cancer. It is sort of like removing Billy the Kid from the “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters and appointing him county sheriff.
And there’s more good news
I wouldn’t overemphasize some of these risk-reduction studies (reducing strokes and diabetes requires a lot more than drinking coffee!), but they sure are better than a hole in the head, eh?
Holy cup-of-Joe, Batman, this is really good news!
Some like it hot
The WHO did note one interesting finding, and that is that drinking very hot beverages may actually lead to esophageal cancer. This fascinates me. So it may not be the coffee that is the problem, it may be drinking liquids that are too hot – at least for your esophagus. I am tempted to give this finding a bit of a “yeah, whatever” – I mean really who drinks their coffee that scalding hot anyway. But something to think about – if you’re burning your mouth on the stuff, let it cool off for Pete’s sake.
OK, it can’t be all good news, can it?
Well, sure, if you overdo it (like I do some days), the caffeine will make you jittery, maybe some gastrointestinal distress, give you caffeine-headaches, and so on. So there’s that.
This all sounds a bit too good to be true. As a doctor I do have to temper my enthusiasm for all these studies claiming coffee is good for everything from stroke to cancer to diabetes. Like just about everything in medical science, things can change and new information can become available. There are confounding factors and biases, and after all no study is perfect. There really is not one magic thing that will prevent you from having a stroke or a cancer or diabetes or any other illness. But I think we can take one important point from all of this and that is that at least coffee does not appear to be all that bad for you.
So play that audio clip one more time. My sentiments exactly.
Hey here’s a reminder that our Healthy Matters book club is in full swing. I hope many of you are reading Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think. I’ll be doing a post in a couple weeks to hear what you thought of the book. Here’s the link to the post where I talk about it. It’s a good read!