Few things have been more studied and debated over an extended period more than the health benefits, or lack thereof, of drinking coffee. On one hand, consumers have been warned about the dangers from too much caffeine and the risk of cancer. On the other, they are told that drinking coffee can reduce the risk of getting diseases – including cancer.
Recently, California, a state where it seems that nearly everything is regulated in some way by government, took the side of coffee, declaring the beverage does not pose a "significant" cancer risk. Regulators decided coffee will not have to carry a warning that the beverage may be bad for you.
The state took the rare move after a Los Angeles judge found Starbucks Corp. and other companies failed to show benefits from drinking coffee outweighed risks from a byproduct of the roasting process. The ruling put the industry in jeopardy of hefty civil penalties and in the position of either developing a process to remove the chemical or warning consumers about the risk of cancer.
The chemical in question, acrylamide, is on a li7st that California says causes cancer, though other groups classify it as a "probable" carcinogen.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which implements the law, concluded there was no significant risk after a World Health Organization review of more than 1,000 studies and found inadequate evidence that coffee causes cancer. Further, it concluded coffee reduces the risk of some types of cancer.
"Coffee is a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals that includes both carcinogens and anti-carcinogens," said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the agency. "The overall effect of coffee consumption is not associated with any significant cancer risk."
So there you have it. If even California is refusing to denigrate coffee, surely it must be OK. Drink up!
And if you want to believe another study, this one from the United Kingdom, you can drink a lot of it. The study found drinking five cups a day, and even up to 25, was no worse for the arteries than drinking less than a cup a day.
Previous studies have suggested coffee stiffens arteries, putting pressure on the heart and increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.
All the participants in the latest study underwent MRI heart scans and infrared pulse wave tests, and the results held true even after factors such as age, weight and smoking status were taken into account.
And some people actually consumed 25 cups a day, the aspect of the study that has gotten headlines.
To be clear, no one is suggesting anyone consume 25 cups of coffee a day in the name of good health. But the California decision and the British study are two more ingredients in a blend that seems to be leaning toward coffee being declared a truly healthy beverage.
Yet some old advice applies: “Moderation in all things.”