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Coffee: just use common sense!

As the weather turns colder, a nice hot cup of coffee sounds good. But coffee has gained a reputation for causing health problems, including insomnia, elevated blood pressure, fibrocystic breasts in women, and even increased risk for cancer and heart disease. A person should avoid coffee, right?

New research has found that rates of cancer and heart disease are generally not affected by coffee consumption. Apparently, unfiltered coffee can elevate cholesterol slightly. Using a paper coffee filter traps the cholesterol-elevating substances in the coffee beans, whereas drinking an unfiltered coffee drink such as a latte poses higher risks. Coffee does not seem to have the negative effects on blood pressure that we once thought.

Coffee might confer some benefits in certain types of cancer. Last year, a study showed that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of developing liver cancer by a margin of 50%. Some research shows lower rates of colon, breast, and rectal cancers in coffee drinkers as well. Coffee has a high antioxidant content, which is one good way to keep cancer at bay.

Heavy coffee drinkers, those who consume four to seven cups a day, may cut their risk for developing diabetes in half. Coffee seems to protect men, but not women, from Parkinson’s disease. However, one way that people get in trouble with coffee is by adding too much cream and sugar, which increases the fat and calorie count. Caffeine can cause anxiety and sleep problems in susceptible people. The idea of coffee in moderation seems to apply here. So enjoy your coffee this winter. Just keep an eye on the cream and sugar, and consequently, your waistline.

--Dr. Kate Kennedy

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