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Cool beans: Is coffee actually good for you?

Bear with me, I'm jonesing. It's 5:30 p.m. and my eyeballs sting, my fingers are struggling to find the right keys, I am burning out after a long day – and I need a coffee, stat.

I've tried hard to curb my coffee addiction lately – limiting my habit to three cups in the morning. I feel great until mid-afternoon and then I start to crash.

Much to my delight and to the caffeine-dependent everywhere, this weekend's New York Times magazine (the kind that comes out to either appease coffee drinkers or scare them, much like the wine-inclined, about once or twice a year) says that coffee at long last, may just be good for you.

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Excuse me while I fire up the Tassimo.

The Times piece highlights several recent studies linking java to better health – specifically, studies that showed coffee-drinkers were more likely to live longer, ward off diabetes and avoid certain cancers.

"Other recent studies have linked moderate coffee drinking – the equivalent of three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day or a single venti-size Starbucks – with more specific advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, basal cell carcinoma (the most common skin cancer), prostate cancer, oral cancer and breast cancer recurrence."

But perhaps the most jolting good news is this:

"In a 2012 study of humans, researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, or the first glimmer of serious forgetfulness, a common precursor of Alzheimer's disease, and then re-evaluated them two to four years later. Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer's than those whose blood indicated they'd had about three cups' worth of caffeine."

But are the drinkers out there just looking for confirmation of a habit that's hard to grind?

Surely there must be bad news studies about coffee and the effects of caffeine on the body – certainly it's not healthy to feel like an addict at 7 a.m., and this little pageant girl, a toddler who drinks coffee every day … well, watch for yourself and decide.

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So what do you think – pass the java? Or are you ready to become a puritanical green tea drinker for life?

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More


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