That flat white could be saving your life
Coffee can improve your looks, your health and longevity, and should be given a health halo rather than a 'thou-shalt-not' label.
That's according to the author of a new book on nutrition, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) researcher Cliff Harvey, who says caffeine fiends can enjoy up to five guilt-free cups of coffee every day.
"For most people it's a healthy addition to their diet," Harvey said.
Harvey penned a chapter on coffee in his book The Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet - a guide for eating to improve your overall wellbeing.
He examined thousands of research papers to draw his conclusions and is backed by AUT professor Grant Schofield, who wrote the book's foreword.
Here's the good news for coffee lovers: it contains antioxidants, which is linked to anti-ageing, and is linked with lowering type-2 diabetes.
It may also reduce mortality, with the greatest effects seen for those drinking between three and five cups daily.
"A good rule of thumb is to have no more than three to five cups of coffee, with the last no later than 12pm-2pm."
Harvey argues caffeine may offer some protection against depression and cognitive decline such as dementia and Parkinson's disease, and that gallstone risk is reduced with higher coffee intakes.
There does not appear to be a link with coffee and gastric cancer, breast cancer, or colorectal cancer.
Harvey averages three cups of coffee a day. At home Harvey drinks plunger coffee, either black or with a touch of milk or cream, out and it's americanos or a long macchiato.
He usually has his first coffee around 6am, then another one with breakfast around 9am.
"I love coffee. I drink it because it tastes amazing, and gives me a kick in the butt. Personality-wise I'm a sprinter and I think that works well with my coffee habit. I work hard, do super-productive things, and then chill big time," he says.
Previous studies of the benefits or risks associated with drinking too much coffee have found possible side effects.
In June, a World Health Organisation report, based on a review of hot drink research from the past 25 years, found "very hot" beverages hotter than 70 deg Celsius "probably" cause cancer.
Harvey says there may be a minor increase in urinary tract cancer and cancer of the larynx.
But, he argues, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
For instance, patients with chronic liver disease who drink coffee have a decreased risk of progression to cirrhosis, a lowered mortality rate, and in chronic Hepatitis C patients coffee was associated with improved responses to antiviral therapy.
"Based on the evidence, coffee is safe and moreover offers significant benefits to health," says Harvey.
So what's the not-so-good side to your love of lattes?
Caffeine does increase blood pressure - however there appears to be no correlation between long-term, habitual use of coffee with cardiovascular disease or chronic high blood pressure.
Fracture risk rises in a dose-dependent manner in women (but not with blokes).
Meanwhile, Harvey recommends reducing, or eliminating, coffee, if it disturbs sleep or upsets digestion; if you "crash" after having the drink; or if it reduces your concentration or makes you feel "fatigued" during exercise.
"It ultimately comes down to the individual," he says.
- Sunday Star Times