It is rather strange that stimulants which at one time were considered as possible health hazards are now being recommended as beneficial to the body. New research has found that drinking coffee, for example, may reduce the risk of bowel cancer by up to 50%. The US study has come to the conclusion that the decreased risk was across all types of coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated.
Scientists at the University of Southern California suggested that coffee is packed with health-boosting compounds that protect against bowel cancer, one of the most common forms of the disease in the UK. About 40,000 cases are diagnosed a year and one in twenty people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. Professor of medicine Dr Stephen Gruber said: ‘We found that drinking coffee is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer and the more coffee consumed the lower the risk.
‘We were somewhat surprised to see that caffeine did not seem to matter. This indicates that caffeine alone is not responsible for coffee’s protective properties.
‘There are few health risks to coffee lovers, who should revel in the strong possibility that their daily mug may lower their risk of colorectal cancer.’
The study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, involved more than 5,100 men and women who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer within the past six months and 4,000 who did not have any links to the disease.
Participants reported how much coffee they drank a day as well as their total consumption of other liquids. A questionnaire also gathered details on other factors that influence the risks of bowel cancer such as diet, physical activity and smoking.
The study found that even moderate coffee consumption – one to two servings a day – was linked to a 26% reduction in the chance of bowel cancer. With 2.5 servings or more daily, the risk continues to decrease up to 50%. Coffee contains many elements that contribute to the health of bowels and this may explain its preventative properties.
Caffeine and polyphenol can act as anti-oxidants, limiting the growth of potential bowel cancer cells, and it has been suggested that melanoidins (which are produced during roasting) encourage colon mobility.
Dr Stephanie Schmit said: ‘The good news is that our data presents a decreased risk of colorectal cancer regardless of what flavour of coffee you prepare.’ Dr Gruber added that more research was needed before drinking coffee could be recommended as a preventative measure.
The upshot of all this points to the fact that drinking coffee is not as harmful as some scientists may have suggested, but whether it has some preventative benefits is yet to be confirmed. I’m perfectly happy to carry on with the habit of drinking coffee and enjoying it – since many things in life are a gamble that’s worth indulging in.