Coffee Gets A Boost!

I love coffee. And while I was never under the delusion that it was massively bad for me, I was always skeptical of the health benefits of “morning mud” as well. New research (done without animal testing) confirms the latter, however: coffee may extend your life! CNN reports:

Overall, coffee drinkers were less likely than their peers to die during the study, and the more coffee they drank, the lower their mortality risk tended to be. Compared with people who drank no coffee at all, men and women who drank six or more cups per day were 10% and 15% less likely, respectively, to die during the study.

This pattern held when the researchers broke out the data by specific causes of death, including heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia,stroke, diabetes, infections, and even injuries and accidents. Cancer was the only major cause of death not associated with coffee consumption.

Six cups or more seems like an awful lot of coffee…but even one or two (a “modest” consumption) was associated with a 5-6% reduction in risk of chronic disease. Decaf versus caffeinated did not make a difference (yay!), but researchers are still unclear as to what the mechanisms in coffee are that provide a health benefit. A recent study at the University of Portugal summarized this position:

[S]everal biological activities, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticariogenic, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, and antiglycative activities, have been attributed to coffee melanoidins.To understand the potential of coffee melanoidin health benefits, it is essential to know their chemical structures. The studies undertaken to date dealing with the structural characterization of coffee melanoidins have shown that polysaccharides, proteins, and chlorogenic acids are involved in coffee melanoidin formation. However, exact structures of coffee melanoidins and mechanisms involved in their formation are far to be elucidated.

I’m excited by this “coffee science” as one might say – in Malaysia last year they determined that roasting coffee beans at different temperatures (and quantities) could affect antioxidant activity and other beneficial compounds, such as chlorogenic acid (which supposedly slows glucose in the blood stream). Pretty cool!

As with most products, there’s a better, and worse way to buy: coffee is no exception. Buying certified fair trade coffee ensures that the farmers who grew those beans (most likely in Asia, or South America) were payed a fair price, and are able to grow and sell in a secure environment instead of dealing with shrewd “middlemen.” See “Buy Fair Trade: It Just Makes Sense” for more info. Organic coffee is also a plus, leaving the land in good condition after the beans are grown. Global Exchange has an extensive FAQ on the difference between fair-trade, organic, “shade grown,” and other ethical terminologies.

Photo: Amanda via flickr.

Note: There’s a petition going on right now for Starbucks to start serving certified Fair Trade coffee in their US stores Sign it here.