A recent study suggests scientists are waking up to coffee’s benefits.
British Medical Journal researchers say coffee may not only give you a morning boost but it may also be associated with a range of significant health benefits.
The journal says drinking three to four cups of coffee a day could lower the risks associated with heart disease, stroke, metabolic and liver disorders, as well as overall chances of death. when compared with not drinking coffee.
However, coffee has a controversial history and the studies can be overwhelming and confusing.
Doctor John Roll Vice Dean of research at Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University said the data from the study checked out. He said it was pulled from multiple sources, then peer reviewed, which means the data was reviewed by experts in the field before it was published.
Roll said an appropriately designed study fills certain criteria and answer the questions or support the claims the authors want to make in the study. Funding of a study follows a similar pattern.
“A group of experts have a conversation about the study and then make their recommendation to determine if it is good science or not,” said Roll.
Doctor Abe DeAnda, professor and chief of cardiovascular surgery at the University of Texas, Galveston Medical Center confirmed the source of this data. The British study is a meta-analysis, meaning the data found was pulled from multiple studies then subsequently refined with statistical techniques. Association between coffee and health benefits are seen but it does not guarantee or mean causation.
Doctor Brydan D. Curtis D.O , Interventional Cardiologist at Providence HealthCare agreed.
Curtis said the study is very relevant to patients given the large amount of caffeine research that has been published over the past 10 years, in all different aspects of medicine from cancer to cardiovascular and stroke.
The next step would be to isolate the beneficial components of coffee, which may or may not be the caffeine.
“I tell my patients that it is ok to drink coffee but we have to be careful with the literature that we don’t actually know that coffee or caffeine is the main reason- we are just associating it with better outcomes in certain things from cardiovascular disease stroke,” said Curtis
Curtis said it is an interesting study and it will push researchers to do more randomized trials to actually see what it is- whether it is the bioactive ingredients in coffee or whether it is caffeine itself that have these potentially very protective effects against some of these conditions.
The health concerns between coffee drinkers varies.
“More studies are needed, most of these studies are observational studies – meaning we are just getting the attributes of what people do in their daily lives,” Curtis said.
This most recent study found concerns for women. Women who drink more than four cups of coffee daily, who already have a high risk of bone fractures will increase their risk of injury.
Curtis added studies are rarely conducted on pregnant women but these women should also be wary. High levels of coffee consumption during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, pre-term birth and stillbirths, meaning the mother feels the benefits but the developing child does not.
Coffee is safe, but hold the cake.
According to Roll, disease can be determined by our genetics, and lifestyle.
“There are probably very few health conditions that are determined by one thing only,” he explained. “In this case it would be coffee.”
Roll said it would be a very rare condition where there is just one thing that contributes to a disease.
With the help of big data and high-performance computing we have the ability to analyze large amounts of information from around the world and pull all of these separate pieces together. Doctors are getting closer to accurate answers that will have real positive outcomes. But for now, coffee is just one piece of that puzzle.
Curtis said coffee drinking is a complex behavior determined by someone’s lifestyle choices, for example, for some people coffee is associated with smoking.
“There is enough positive data to support coffee but more research is needed before I begin to recommend drinking coffee,” Roll said.
“I think most clinical research is really designed by people who want to understand disease, prevent disease and help people reclaim their health if they are impacted by disease – I think it is well intentioned,” he said. “I think human health is so complex and multiple determined, there are so many things that impact how we are right now in our environment and world and their going to change.”
Roll said he believes a lot of the time, people should go back to the basics.
“Exercise, nutrition, a balanced diet, things like that are important,” he said. “We should not look for a technological and scientific way to get out of good nutrition and good healthy exercise, I would probably not change my practice based on one article.”