If your morning beverage of choice is coffee, recent research provides an extra perk.
Like much-publicized green tea, which has garnered considerable attention due to its high antioxidant content, researchers have found that coffee is quite high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are generally helpful substances, found in foods, which scavenge unstable molecules (free radicals) in your body. Free radicals contribute to oxidative stress, which, over time, can cause inflammation and other unhealthy changes in your cells.
The February issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource highlights news about these health benefits of coffee:
Reduced risk of inflammation and cardiovascular disease. A study of more than 27,000 postmenopausal women concluded that coffee's antioxidant properties may inhibit inflammation and, consequently, development of cardiovascular disease.
Reduced risk of diabetes: It appears that routine coffee consumption, particularly decaffeinated coffee, substantially lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Brain protection: Among a group of 890 older women, a history of consuming caffeinated coffee throughout their life appears to help preserve cognitive skills -- thinking, memory and comprehension -- possibly because of long-term caffeine exposure.
Reduced risk of Parkinson's disease: A large trial called the Nurses' Health Study found that low levels of caffeine intake reduced the risk of Parkinson's disease in women who used postmenopausal hormone therapy. In women who didn't use hormones, caffeine intake at moderate to high levels decreased the risk of Parkinson's.
Some studies highlighted the health risks of coffee, too. For example, the Nurses' Health Study also showed that high levels of caffeine -- six or more cups a day -- increased the risk of Parkinson's in women who used hormone therapy.
Of course, too much caffeine can cause restlessness, anxiety, irritability, tremors, sleeplessness, headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms and abnormal heart rhythms. In some individuals, caffeine can increase blood pressure. Some people are extra sensitive to even slight amounts of caffeine.
For most people, it appears that a moderate daily intake of coffee -- two to four cups -- doesn't seem to hurt and may even help.