American professor Dr. Frank Hu has recently published the results of his 20-year study, researching how caffeine affects the human body. The results can be summarised as ‘coffee is good for you’ – it turns out that coffee drinkers live longer and have reduced risks of heart and neurodegenerative diseases compared to non-coffee drinkers. Apparently, there’s also a link between drinking coffee and a reduced risk of suicide.
The research began in 1976 and a study was started involving almost 210,000 participants. By carrying out checks at regular intervals, the researchers eventually gathered the equivalent of 4.7 million ‘person years’ of data, which took several generations of scientists to analyse.
The research began in 1976, and involved nearly 210,000 people. With all the follow-ups over the years, the study includes 4.7 million person-years of data. The scale meant it took several generations of scientists to complete the study. Dr. Hu joined the research team in 1996, as part of his work with Harvard Medical School.
The first fact to emerge from the vast amount of data is that coffee contains a large number (possibly even thousands) of bioactive compounds. The one we all know is caffeine, but that’s just a tiny part of the whole picture. According to Dr. Hu, this makes it almost impossible to establish the specific effect of individual compounds. It’s also likely that coffee’s health benefits can’t be attributed to just one or two of these compounds, but rather to the combined effect of everything working together. Some of the health benefits the scientists researched also applied to decaffeinated coffee.
Another complicating factor was the fact that coffee drinkers are also more likely than usual to smoke. According to Dr. Hu, this masked some of coffee’s health benefits and muddied the water as far as the research was concerned. Researchers have established, though, that regular coffee drinking can help support a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and even certain types of cancer. Coffee drinkers also appear to be at a lower risk of depression and suicide.
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