A Cupful of Reality

Whether you need your morning “cup of Joe,” large (triple venti) soy milk mocha latte or daily 3 p.m. cafecito in the office, your coffee consumption may or may not be contributing to your overall health.

Social media shares of recent news articles would have you believe the more coffee you drink, the better for your health, citing studies that link daily multiple cups of coffee to reductions in prostate cancer and skin cancer rates, stroke occurrences , type 2 diabetes  and improved eyesight.

So, we decided to grab a cup of coffee and interview Baptist Health Medical Group internist Maryanne Samuel, D.O., to sort through the hype.

“Coffee is the most socially-accepted stimulant around,” Dr. Samuel said.  “The attention to these studies may stem from people looking for validation of their coffee-consumption habits.”

Dr. Samuel adds that while most of the population can safely consume daily doses of coffee, we should stop short of prescribing coffee to prevent, cure or treat the diseases and ailments these studies test.

“The studies that have been conducted and reported about coffee’s health benefits are merely observational,” she said.  “In other words, researchers are pooling the data from studies of diseases and noticing correlations between coffee consumption and the disease incident rates.”

Since the studies rely on participants to report on the frequency of their consumption and the amount of coffee they drink, there’s a greater chance for error than if these studies had been conducted in a controlled environment, where variables such as amounts, frequency and demographics of subjects were kept consistent.

While the evidence may be unclear as to how beneficial coffee is for preventing and treating certain diseases, a Harvard study, concluded that coffee consumption of up to six cups a day, among men and women in their 40s and 50s, did not lead to an increased risk of death or adverse health effects over an 18- to 24-year period.

Dr. Samuel says that the research pointing to the short-term benefits of coffee consumption is well-established in the scientific community.  These benefits include:

•    Increased focus
•    Improved reaction time
•    Diminished jet lag symptoms
•    Relieved migraine side effects

However, Dr. Samuel warns there is strong evidence to show that coffee can aggravate reflux, atrial fibrillation and anxiety, and cause dehydration, tremors and sleep deprivation.  She notes, too, that pregnant women should limit the amount of coffee they drink because its effects on unborn babies need further studies.

“It seems likely that the benefits of coffee consumption lie with its known antioxidants, however, there’s inconclusive research on whether these substances stay in the body long enough to produce healthful effects,” she said.

Until further evidence focusing exclusively on coffee’s health benefits is known, Dr. Samuel says it’s okay to enjoy your daily dose of coffee. But, remember to keep it light on additives, like sugar, that can turn it from potentially healthy to a nutrition nightmare.

“When you’re enjoying your cup of coffee, be sure it’s served with a healthy dose of reality.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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