Hooked on coffee? It could save your life - LivewellNebraska.com
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Hooked on coffee? It could save your life

Coffee is my favorite beverage.

I bet you didn't expect to hear that from a doctor. Don't get me wrong, I love water and I drink about 64 to 100 ounces a day. But I also drink my fair share of coffee. It's mostly decaffeinated and, I hate to admit this, but I've been a coffee drinker most of my life.

I started drinking the stuff when I was about five. In my mom's defense, it was mostly milk with a little bit of java mixed in. Drinking coffee was part of our ritual in the morning when eating breakfast, and I even had my own little mug.

There was something special about sitting down for breakfast and drinking from my own little cup.

Dr. Joann Schaefer is vice president of medical care and management for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. She previously served as chief medical officer and director of public health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for about eight years. She blogs monthly for livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Dr. Schaefer.

It was warm and comforting.

It still is today. It kind of wakes me up a little, too. But because it's mostly decaf, it really serves as a comfort drink. For years, it has been known that the antioxidants and plant chemicals in the tea leaf are good for you. And as it turns out, the coffee bean is pretty good for you, too.

If you Google “coffee and New England Journal of Medicine” you will find a great study on coffee and health.

The well-respected research, involving more than 400,000 people and 52,000 deaths, does not show a correlation between coffee and risk of death. In fact, the study found just the opposite for most diseases. This has been somewhat controversial and confusing in the past and it may still be.

The study concluded that up to six cups of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee a day actually lowers the risk of death. The findings were significant: a 10 percent reduced death rate for men who drink coffee regularly and a 15 percent reduced death rate for women who are regular coffee drinkers. There are plant chemicals in coffee beans that may somehow be protective for the human body, the research says.

Now, I am not suggesting that you go guzzle a pot of coffee every day and toss broccoli out the window. But I am suggesting you can stop worrying about it.

And if you don't have a health condition for which you have to avoid caffeine or coffee, there is some pretty amazing data to back up the health benefits of coffee.

Although this study does not show a cause and effect, it can provide some reassurance to those who love the beverage, such as “yours truly.” It also shows how science continues to try to answer questions, but how hard it is to just simply say something is good or bad for you. I am a big believer in “almost everything in moderation.”

Here are some tips for regular coffee drinkers:
- If you like coffee, enjoy it. Stop feeling guilty but pay attention to the caffeine and further studies in the future. WHY? There is some evidence that filtered coffee is better than direct expressed coffee in terms of your cholesterol. This may be due to a plant compound filtered through the coffee filter that if it stays in, it can increase your cholesterol- amazing huh? Stay tuned for more on that and remember the moderation clause! I enjoy lattes too.

- If you are having trouble sleeping, feeling anxious, nervous or crabby (you know who you are!), cut down or cut out all caffeine after noon. It takes a long time to metabolize or process caffeine, and for some people, it takes longer than for others. Consider increasing water by matching an 8-ounce glass for every cup of coffee you drink.

- Try blending down your caffeinated coffee to partial decaf in your at-home blend. You can do that by blending a decaf bag into your favorite regular blend, and over time you will wean yourself down or off.

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