Coffee has been a medical whipping boy for so long that it may come as a surprise that recent research suggests that drinking moderate amounts of coffee (two to four cups per day) provides a wide range of health benefits. Most of these benefits have been identified through statistical studies that track a large group of subjects over the course of years and match incidence of various diseases with individual habits, like drinking coffee, meanwhile controlling for other variables that may influence that relationship. According to a spate of such recent studies moderate coffee drinking may lower the risk of colon cancer by about 25%, gallstones by 45%, cirrhosis of the liver by 80%, and Parkinson’s disease by 50% to as much as 80%. Other benefits include 25% reduction in onset of attacks among asthma sufferers and, at least among a large group of female nurses tracked over many years, fewer suicides.
In addition, some studies have indicated that coffee contains four times the amount of cancer-fighting anti-oxidants as green tea.
Of course, most of these studies do not take into account how the coffee is brewed, how fresh the beans, and so on. Perhaps as these studies are refined we may discover, for example, that drinking coffee that has been freshly roasted and brewed is more beneficial than downing coffee that is terminally stale or badly brewed. Certainly there is considerably more going on chemically in fresh coffee than in stale. And we may learn how much beneficial effects of coffee drinking are provoked by caffeine and how much by other, less understood, chemical components of coffee. But one thing is certain, if I were a nurse taking part in the study noted earlier, and if I were drinking cheap office service coffee, I would be much, much more prone to suicide than if I were drinking, say, a freshly roasted and brewed Ethiopia Yirgacheffe.