Drink coffee to get healthy isn’t advice anyone took seriously until the last few years. But in 2018, an American Medical Association review showed “coffee drinkers were found to be about 10 percent to 15 percent less likely to die than non-coffee drinkers.” So, who’s staying awake half the night laughing now?

Drink coffee and get healthy at the old Essex Street market
Drink coffee and get healthy, serving it up at the old Essex Street Market in New York City

My father started and ended every day with a cup of coffee. My brothers, sister and I picked up his habit, but none of us imagined it was for health. We drank coffee to wake up, not as a magic beverage.

I doubt Dad sipped for health either. I mean, every cup was bordered with a cigarette on each end.

Completely unknown to us then, what we called “a cup of mud” was actually be good for us.

My fiancee trips over Dad’s wisdom

I brought Maureen, my fiancee, to meet my family at a holiday get-together. When we walked in the door, Dad sat at my brother’s table with a cup of coffee. Soon, Maureen volunteered that coffee wasn’t good for you.

Maureen was long on sweetness and short on caution. She triggered my father’s well-earned stubborn streak.

“Whoever told you that?” Dad scoffed.

Maureen froze, a voiceless “Oops” etched on her face.

But the correct answer was, “Everybody.” She just couldn’t get it out.

I didn’t marry Maureen, as it turned out. So, she never learn to parry Dad’s verbal thrusts. Of course, neither did anyone else.

A disruptive generation enshrines coffee

My generation distrusted many experts. An ambition of many was figuring out what was wrong with anything we enjoyed.

They were wrong about coffee and premarital sex, and so was Maureen. Both became more true as the years went by.

Starbucks was right. At first, that is. Later, turning stores into study halls for lonely millennials was a huge mistake. But that’s now, and this is then, something like that.

Who guessed that consuming coffee would evolve, in the short lifespan of Seattle’s beverage giant, from health risk to salubrious ritual?

I’d like to think that I did, but no, my coffee consumption aimed at nothing more elevated than staying more awake while on the clock.

Estimates are that 130 million Americans drink coffee every day, and there were times during my sales career when I believed most of them were in the Starbucks line ahead of me.

I’m tempted to say, “130,000,000 Americans can’t be wrong,” but that would be a cliche. So, I won’t.

Removing the Big “C” from Coffee

A new report from the World Health Organization is good news for every wide awake one of us.

In a case of guilty until proven innocent, in 1991,WHO condemned coffee as “possibly carcinogenic.” That was based on weak links to bladder cancer.

This claim ranks right up there with the high carb diets that ushered in the obesity epidemic. Both counted on weak evidence and distaste for seeing others enjoying themselves.

Debunking the fun killers…

Since 1991, a stream of studies reported positive statistical relationships between coffee drinking and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

A quarter century after its first report, WHO took another look and dodged looking foolish any longer.

How many times were we lectured about how drinking coffee was bad in the meantime?

Should we expect apologies?

No, probably not.

But after WHO heard back from a working group of 23 scientists looking at hundreds of studies, they retracted their anti-coffee message.

And then some.

New wisdom: Drink coffee, get healthy

“After thoroughly reviewing more than 1000 studies in humans and animals, the Working Group found that there was inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity of coffee drinking overall,” their report conceded.

Translation: coffee doesn’t cause cancer.

But no apologies to Juan Valdez for all those lost years without guiltless caffeine highs.

The report continued, “Many epidemiological studies showed that coffee drinking had no carcinogenic effects for cancers of the pancreas, female breast, and prostate, and reduced risks were seen for cancers of the liver and uterine endometrium. (Emphasis mine.)

They saved the best for last: Coffee is associated with a reduced risk for some cancers.

That’s good news, but why didn’t the experts say so in plain English?

Excess pride?

And the fallout continued…

As quoted in the New York Times, Geoffrey Kabat, a cancer epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said, “What the evidence shows over all is that coffee drinking is associated with either reduced risk of several cancers or certainly no clear increase in other cancers. There’s a strong signal that this is probably not something that we need to be worrying about.”

And in 2018, an American Medical Association review analyzed information from 500,000 study volunteers that revealed “coffee drinkers were found to be about 10 percent to 15 percent less likely to die than non-coffee drinkers during a decade of follow-up checks.”

The amount of coffee appeared to be of little relevance, as long as you had some.

No one is sure why coffee has a positive effect on numerous human functions, but as far as cancer reduction goes, it’s antioxidant affect has long been recognized. Antioxidants are also suspected as responsible for similar healthful affects seen in red wine drinkers.

A personal conclusion, after drinking coffee for health

Which makes me think I need to do some wine research. How many of my vices have actually been benefits, all this time?

Dad was not a wine drinker. So, I’ll have to do my own research on this one

Wish me luck.

The Witch Next Door, a dip back in time.

David Stone is a New York City based writer or timely articles, novels and nonfiction books. See more on his Amazon Author Page.

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