Food Matters: Drinking coffee or tea has health perks

By Chuck NewcombMarch 1, 2013 

A coffee club recently sent out a mailing touting the health benefits of coffee with regard to diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cirrhosis and Alzheimer's. This form of marketing could be pretty shady and deceptive except that numerous studies have come out recently supporting the claim.

For decades, efforts have been under way to prove that coffee is a health menace on par with tobacco and alcohol. No such assertions have ever been supported by solid research. Instead, the opposite appears to be true.

First, it is important to point out that regular coffee is high in caffeine, which can be quite addicting but isn't necessarily habit-forming.

A study conducted in Sweden found a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance with increased coffee consumption. Also, a Nurses Health study in the United States found that moderate consumption of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors suggest that something in coffee other than caffeine may be responsible for the observed effect. Coffee somehow causes improvements in fasting glucose, two-hour plasma glucose, and fasting insulin. Another study looking specifically at caffeine found increased blood sugars and increased insulin levels with higher amounts of caffeine.

Drinking six cups of coffee a day has been shown to reduce the chance of developing type-2 diabetes by half in men. Women who drink the same amount may cut their risk by 30 percent. Dutch researchers discovered that there are compounds in coffee that aid the body's metabolism of sugar. The benefits of coffee have been found regardless of levels of physical activity, body mass index and alcohol consumption.

But it's not just coffee that has these kind of effects. Drinking tea can improve insulin activity up to 15 times whether it's black, green or oolong tea. Using milk (even soy milk) in coffee or tea, seems to interact with the necessary chemicals and render them unavailable to the body. So black coffee is the way to go.

Parkinson's disease has also been shown to benefit from routine consumption of coffee. The Honolulu Heart Program involving more than 8,000 Japanese-American men concluded that men who don't drink coffee are two to three times as likely to get the disease as are men who do drink coffee.

Another study of 125,000 people over 22 years found that coffee drinkers were less likely to be diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis. For every daily cup of coffee that participants reported drinking, they were 22 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis during the study. Similar benefits have been shown for Alzheimer's. So it appears drinking decaffeinated coffee black may have significant positive effects on many aspects of our health. Perhaps the magic bullet we've been waiting for has been right under our noses the whole time. So, wake up and smell the coffee.

Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE is a consulting registered dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy services for Memorial Hospital Los Banos. He has a master of science in clinical nutrition from New York University. Email questions to the Attention of ChuckRD at: MHA

LosBanos@SutterHealth.org or on his website

MySmartRD.com.

Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE is a consulting registered dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy services for Memorial Hospital Los Banos. He has a master of science in clinical nutrition from New York University. Email questions to the Attention of Ch

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