For the week of April 14, 1999  thru April 20, 1999  

Coffee may not be all bad

The skinny on your skinny latte

Express Staff Writer

On Friday at noon, Kate Duininck ordered "the usual" and began tapping her fingers blithely on the countertop as she waited inside Java on Fourth. Her eyes, though, locked on the espresso machine that was spewing black coffee into the cup that would soon be hers.

"If I don’t have my latte, I feel like I’ve missed something," Duininck said, reaching for her frothy cup and then clasping it as if it was a precious jewel. "It’s part of my daily ritual."

Duininck takes her daily coffee seriously, and she is not alone.

Across the nation, approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population drinks coffee. Those coffee drinkers consume on average 3.3 cups of coffee per day.

Across the world, coffee is consumed hot or cold by more than a third of the population in an amount greater than any other beverage except for tea.

Nick Harmen, manager of Java on Fourth in Ketchum, said coffee drinkers start trooping in the shop ritually at 6:30 a.m. every day.

"They want to get through the day," Harmen said. "Some people come in three times a day."

Coffee drinkers have taken a lashing in the past from health professionals, who have linked even moderate amounts of coffee consumption to everything from cancer to infertility to heart attack.

The most recent research, though, brings good news to coffee lovers, especially to women, who have been warned by physicians to wean themselves from coffee because of risks associated with osteoporosis, breast disease, and reproductive health.

Most coffee lovers, according to this latest research, can drink as many as four cups of coffee a day without putting their health at risk.

  • A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found "neither caffeinated nor decaffeinated coffee was associated with the risk of myocardial infarction." Coffee was found to have no impact on heart attack risk, even for those who drank more than four cups a day.

  • A 1997 National Institutes of Health study reported that "no direct relationship between caffeine intake and elevated blood pressure has been found in most epidemiological surveys."

  • Two recent studies found no relationship between coffee consumption and cancer risk. This confirms the position of the American Cancer Society, which stated that "available information does not suggest a recommendation against the moderate use of coffee. There is no indication that caffeine, a natural component of both coffee and tea, is a risk factor in human cancer."

  • Research indicates that caffeine intake is not related to the development of fibrocystic breast disease (FBD), a condition characterized by multiple lumps in the breast. Both the American Medical Association on Scientific Affairs and the National Cancer Institute have published reports saying there is not an association between caffeine intake and the incidence of FBD.

  • Scientists reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine that coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages do not cause any persistent increase in blood pressure.

  • A study of women’s caffeine consumption and fertility found that caffeine was not linked to fertility problems. This study of almost 3,000 women was reported by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Harvard Medical Center in 1990.

  • Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine does not increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis, the disease of the bone characterized by a decrease in bone density and the development of weak and brittle bones. The National Institute of Health rejected coffee and caffeine as a risk factor for osteoporosis, emphasizing instead the importance of women building adequate bone mass during their teen years.

"Coffee is not linked to any disease process," said Wood River Valley family practice physician Richard Paris. "The key is moderation."

Dr. Paris advises patients with pre-existing heart conditions not to drink coffee, since the mild stimulant effects could throw the heart into an irregular rhythm.

"It can be a problem if people use coffee as a crutch to go beyond what their bodies are capable of," Dr. Paris said. "That can be a hazard, because it’s important to let the body rest."

The average person who is in good health and who drinks moderate amounts of coffee has nothing to worry about, Dr. Paris said.


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