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Coffee and Your Health

Say it’s so, Joe: The potential health benefits -- and drawbacks –- of coffee.

Cancer

The evidence of a cancer protection effect of coffee is weaker than that for type 2 diabetes. But “for liver cancer, I think that the data are very consistent,” Hu says.

“All of the studies have shown that high coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer,” he says. That's a "very interesting finding," Hu says, but again, it's not clear how it might work. 

Again, this research shows a possible association, but like most studies on coffee and health, does not show cause and effect.

Pregnancy

In August 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that moderate caffeine drinking -- less than 200 mg per day, or about the amount in 12 ounces of coffee -- doesn't appear to have any major effects on causing miscarriage, premature delivery, or fetal growth.

But the effects of larger caffeine doses are unknown, and other research shows that pregnant women who drink many cups of coffee daily may be at greater risk for miscarriage than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers. Again, it's not clear whether the coffee was responsible for that.

Calories, Heartburn, and Urine

You won't break your calorie budget on coffee -- until you start adding the trimmings.

According to the web site myfoodapedia.gov -- part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion -- a 6-ounce cup of black coffee contains just 7 calories. Add some half & half and you'll get 46 calories. If you favor a liquid nondairy creamer, that will set you back 48 calories. A teaspoon of sugar will add about 23 calories.

Drink a lot of coffee and you may head to the bathroom more often. Caffeine is a mild diuretic -- that is, it makes you urinate more than you would without it. Decaffeinated coffee has about the same effect on urine production as water.

Both regular and decaffeinated coffee contain acids that can make heartburn worse.

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Reviewed on August 29, 2011

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