According to a recent report from the National Coffee Association, sugary drinks aren't the only beverages of choice currently on the rebound. After four years of decline, consumption of coffee is said to be up five percentage points from last year. It's nothing near the peak year of 1946, when the nation was consuming about 46.4 gallons of coffee per capita a year. Today, 64 percent of Americans now drink at least one cup a day and the United States remains the largest coffee consumer in the world.
This trend is occurring despite persistent, time-honored doctor warnings that coffee might be hard on the body; that we ought to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease, stunt growth, or even have damaging effects on the digestive tract.
However, the latest scientific research is showing that coffee well may have positive effects on the body. When consumed in moderation, enjoying a cup of Joe might be one of the healthier things you can do. And coffee drinking is but one of the latest shunned practices where science is evolving in its favor.
As pointed out in a recent TIME magazine report, at the heart of the coffee drinking temperance movement are studies done decades ago comparing health outcomes of coffee drinkers to non-drinkers. When measuring things like heart problems and mortality, coffee drinkers seemed to always measure worse than non-coffee drinkers in these studies. Yet these studies didn't always counter their findings with the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking and a lack of physical activity.
Twenty years ago, coffee drinking was very closely associated with smoking. Many people couldn't have one without the other; it's possible coffee could have been getting a bad rap all these years through guilt by association.
This certainly seems to be the case when you look at recent findings. Current studies show no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack. Recent studies also show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-coffee drinkers.
Coffee has also proven to be high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. It is also believed that some of the chemicals in coffee could help reduce inflammation, which is a common factor with the onset of numerous diseases. Some evidence also suggests that coffee slows down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging. Sure, like many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, but studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee a day to be safe for most people.
So the next time someone offers their guests a cup and some opt for a diet soda, you may want to remind folks of the latest news on coffee as well as on diet soda. As pointed out last week, an observational study published by the American Heart Association suggests that people who drink artificially-sweetened beverages showed an increased risk of developing stroke or dementia.
Back pain is something that affects at least two out of three people in this country sometime in their life. If you see a doctor about the problem they are likely to suggest a number of different treatment options. Chiropractic spinal manipulation will likely not be among them. Yet, according to recent findings, for initial treatment of lower back pain, it may be time for physicians to rethink their biases against this practice.
According to a recent report in the New York Times by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, spinal manipulation as well as other less traditional therapies like heat, meditation and acupuncture have shown over time to be as effective as many prescriptive medical therapies and as safe, if not safer than traditional medical approaches. Though many doctors continue to be skeptical about the benefits of this form of treatment, many patients suffering with the problem clearly don't share such concerns. A large survey conducted from 2002 through 2008 of back pain sufferers found that more than 30 percent sought chiropractic care.
Dr. Carroll refers to evidence from 15 randomized controlled trials, which included more than 1,700 patients showing that spinal manipulation generated an improvement in pain in study participants. Spinal manipulation also resulted in improvements in function.
Because they fear the potential harm of a practice they don't clearly understand, some physicians are hesitant to refer patients to chiropractors or even physical therapists for care. Yet in all the studies mentioned, no serious adverse effects were reported.
Prescription pain medications for back problems such as opioids, can lead not only to huge costs but drug abuse and addiction. While visiting a chiropractor may cost more than taking a non-narcotic pain medication, invasive forms of medical interventions can add up to a staggering amount. Studies show that, generally speaking, users of complementary and alternative medicine spend less money overall for back pain treatment than users of only traditional medicine.
The ideal approach is to treat the symptoms and let the body heal, says Dr. Carroll.
Noninvasive therapies seem to do that well enough, he adds.
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.