Last week, I discussed the importance of recently released findings by the federal government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the pre-eminent body in shaping our country's dietary standards.
Many experts in the health and nutrition field have not been great fans of some of the prior recommendations of the committee or of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, the agencies that publish federal dietary guidelines based on the committee's recommendations.
The complaint is that previous guidelines have contributed to a sharp rise in obesity and other forms of chronic disease by steering people away from healthful foods. It is why the committee's current recommendations for long-overdue defined limits on sugar and salt intake, as well as its strong endorsement of a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods, could be a significant incentive in leading people to adopt more healthful diets.
Somewhat lost in the news was the committee's take on coffee consumption. For the first time, the committee directly addressed concerns about coffee, stating that moderate amounts of coffee are good for you and pose no long-term health risks.
"Coffee's good stuff," Tom Brenna, a member of the committee and a nutritionist at Cornell University, told Bloomberg.
I'll drink to that. For as long as I can remember, coffee drinkers have been subjects of ridicule by self-professed healthy eaters — the notion being that one can't be truly health-conscious if he drinks the stuff. Coffee has been portrayed as this evil addiction right up there with smoking, an unfortunate and deadly companion activity of many a coffee drinker.
Come to find, moderate consumption, within three to five cups of coffee a day, not only doesn't seem to pose any long-term health risks but also is correlated by the committee with the health benefits of reduced risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. This comes on the heels of a recent study that showed that Americans today get most of their antioxidants from their daily intake of coffee.
Also in the news is an unrelated report due to be released in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology that has found that drinking upward of four cups of coffee a day could lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS. This debilitating neurological disease affects more than 400,000 Americans and 2.4 million people worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The study, which tested nearly 7,000 people in the United States and Sweden, provides the most compelling evidence to date that the caffeine found in coffee offers a level of protection against a number of neurological disorders, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease among them.
The study's authors are quick to make clear that they do not recommend that anyone at risk for developing MS start self-medicating by guzzling down coffee as a form of treatment.
It is important to point out that coffee is not for everybody. Some people have strong negative reactions to the caffeine in coffee and should avoid it. It has been shown that heavy intake can cause insomnia, nausea, muscle tremors and restlessness in some, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is why many health experts advise avoiding it for six hours before bedtime.
Though studies currently suggest a protective effect on the heart and decreased risk of stroke from coffee drinking, others continue to suggest increased cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, as a consequence — a back-and-forth we can expect will continue, as neither claim can be called totally conclusive.
Still, it's hard to ignore it when we learn that regular coffee intake has also been associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Coffee is the world's second-most traded commodity. It is second only to oil in terms of its value to the world economy. The average U.S. worker spends $1,092 on coffee each year. Last year, Americans who drink coffee consumed about 1.7 cups a day on average, up from 1.4 cups a decade ago, according to an estimate by New York-based researcher StudyLogic.
It is a beverage that continues to have a profound cultural impact around the world and certainly has a fine tradition in this country. It is said that President Theodore Roosevelt drank as much as a gallon of coffee every day. He was also credited with coining the slogan "good to the last drop" during a visit to the home of former President Andrew Jackson.
Thomas Jefferson once called coffee his "favorite drink of the civilized world."
With coffee's worldwide popularity comes a lot of brewed residue — hundreds of thousands of tons of it a day — and scientists are working hard to come up with a useful way to use this waste as a form of energy that goes beyond the kick you get from the drink. Researchers are investigating ways to turn spent coffee grounds into fuel pellets to be burned for energy.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.