If you drink coffee, you may be doing yourself a favor. Researchers say there appears to be no increase in heart disease or cancer from drinking several cups of coffee a day. A new study does show coffee may even be good for your health.
Coffee may even help to reduce gallstones. Experts say 800,000 people are hospitalized every year for painful gallstones. Gallstones form from cholesterol in the gallbladder, the organ which helps the body digest fats. Researchers say coffee may help reduce the risk of gallstone disease. The finding is based on a study at Harvard University of more than 46,000 middle-aged and older men. "The men who drink coffee, four cups a day over at least a period of five years, had a 45 per cent reduction in risk. So this means that individuals can almost cut their risk in half," says Doctor Edward Giovannucci, a specialist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Even those who drank only 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of gallstone disease by 40 per cent. Results of the study are published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While the study shows it doesn't matter how the coffee is brewed, it does show decaffeinated coffee does not have the same effects. Scientists speculate that caffeine may reduce the amount of cholesterol in the gallbladder and, in this way, stop gallstones from forming. But researchers say more studies are needed to determine exactly which components provide the benefits.
"At this point we're not making general recommendations that individuals start drinking more coffee to lower the risk of gallstone disease. However, we think our findings should be reassuring to men and women who do drink coffee and the fact that they may be getting a benefit on gallstone disease," says Dr. Giovannucci.
Scientists say while most of the research was conducted on men, they believe women should receive the same benefits from coffee. A full scale study on women and coffee is now underway. Doctors say the best way to avoid gallstones is to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Women and men who are overweight have a higher risk of developing gallstones.