Is Coffee Bad for You?

I am sitting at the breakfast bar in Deborah's house, about 8:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon of a day that is sure to be tornadic with drama, but at the moment it is peaceful and I have my solace. Deborah, her son Devon, and his girlfriend Gretchen, are upstairs conducting various morning ablutions. I am thankful to have this moment of peace that will inevitably be shattered.

My breakfast consisted of no frills Cheerios (Toasted Oats), with almond milk, frozen blueberries (thawed in the microhorno), and a splash of unsweetened kefir (with a packet of Stevia to sweeten it). And coffee. Always coffee.

Speaking of coffee, a massive scientific study on coffee consumption came out recently, showing that moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups a day) protects against early death by almost any cause, except cancer (SOURCE). This study was not a clinical trial, but rather a longitudinal observational study, in which over 200,000 doctors and nurses were studied for over 30 years, taking periodic medical exams and tests about their diet, behavior, and health. I mean, this study was BIG!

That study provides pretty strong evidence that coffee in moderate amounts is generally good for you. However, always the skeptic, I must also point out that this study did not look at genetics. As it turns out, there is a gene in the liver of all people that metabolizes caffeine and this gene has two different variants (caused by a mutation in a single DNA nucleotide), such that some people are fast metabolizers of caffeine and some are slooooow.

Several studies have shown that while coffee has health benefits in fast metabolizers of caffeine, it may have harmful effects in slooooow metabolizers, which kind of confounds the findings of that big study mentioned above.

Looking at it in a way that most scientists don't, however, it would appear that more studies suggest coffee is beneficial (6) than that it may be harmful (4).

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