President's Prescription: Coffee risks...and health benefits

President's Prescription: Coffee risks...and health benefits

As a kid, you were probably cautioned against drinking coffee with claims that it would stunt your growth or worse. However, recent studies from Duke Medical School and the National Institute of Health indicate that your morning cup may not be so bad after all. This week, Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell brings mostly good news for coffee enthusiasts.

An overwhelming number of Americans turn to coffee each day to start their morning, or even for an afternoon pick-me-up. In the past, coffee has been blamed for a number of health problems, but new research shows that for most, the benefits of consuming coffee regularly far outweigh the risks.

Daily coffee-drinkers may have a significantly lower likelihood of developing certain cancers or Type 2 diabetes. Your morning java also contains more absorbable antioxidants than anything else you will eat or drink all day.

Coffee also shows promise for long-term brain and nervous system health. Studies show that those who use caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, and more recent findings indicate that it may alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's as well. What's more, coffee is now believed to fend off depression and delay the onset of Alzheimer's.

Finally, coffee may improve liver health, especially if you drink alcohol. A study conducted over the course of 22 years showed that cup-a-day coffee drinkers were 20 percent less likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver. Coffee also reduced the risk of liver disease in people who did not consume alcohol.

This research should be weighed together with the possibility that unfiltered coffee, such as espresso, may actually raise cholesterol if consumed in high volume. Also, additives in sugary coffee drinks bring risks of their own. Of course, sugar should be consumed in moderation. The good news is that daily drinkers of natural black coffee may see many health benefits overall.