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A 12-year study of 18,417 men and 39,740 women found that those who increased their caffeine intake had a lower average weight gain than their peers. (Am J Clin Nutr2006;83(3):674-80) Those men who drank an additional cup and a half of coffee per day gained a little less than half a kilogram less weight, while women who drank a single additional cup per day gained slightly less than the men. Interestingly, those who drank more decaffeinated coffee seemed to gain weight.

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Remember when David Letterman had his heart trouble a few years ago? He talked about how his doctors had told him that he couldn't drink coffee anymore, and all I could think was, "Find a new doctor."


 

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Coffee good for the elderly, too

A white demitasse cup with black coffee being poured into it



A lot of the elderly patients in my practice have a problem that's common in the elderly: their blood pressure drops just after a meal. In some cases, this can cause them to actually pass out for a moment. In the past, this condition has been linked to higher risk of coronary events such as heart attack. Caffeinated beverage intake, on the other hand, has been linked in some studies to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Research published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007;85(2): 392-8) investigates whether caffeinated beverage intake might help improve the elderly's risk of cardiovascular disease.

The scientists utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large-scale, long-term study of over 14,000 Americans. Those with missing data were excluded, as were those with a history of cardiovascular disease. The remaining 6,694 people were between the ages of 32 and 86, with a follow-up of almost nine years for the duration of the study.

The participants were asked at the beginning of the study about their usual consumption of various beverages, including regular and decaffeinated drip and instant coffee, tea, and sodas, as well as their intake of chocolate snacks (for their caffeine content). Their health was followed throughout the study.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers analyzed the interaction between not only beverage and chocolate snack intake and the risk of heart disease, but also the interaction between the amount of caffeine represented by the two types of foods and the risk of heart disease. They found that for those participants who were 65 or over, the more caffeinated beverages, particularly ground and instant coffee, a person drank, the less likely they were to die of heart disease or other coronary events. No effect was seen for colas, teas, or chocolate snacks, regardless of their caffeine content.

The scientists rightly point out that it's impossible to tell conclusively from this research whether it's the caffeine or the beverages that have the protective effect, and that more research is needed. It does seem likely that regular intake of beverages containing higher amounts of caffeine may be helping with the drop in blood pressure so many elderly experience after a meal.

What this means for you

There's still no reason to stop drinking coffee unless you or your doctor think that the caffeine is a problem for you. Concerned? Talk to your doctor.

First posted: February 16, 2007