Are you one of those people who looks forward to that first cup of coffee every morning? A lot of us consider it a critical part of the morning routine. Well, it turns out that drinking coffee, even a lot of coffee, might have some very significant benefits.
A recent study evaluated two population studies, one based in Sweden and one in the US. Each study compared two groups of over 1,000 people, evaluating a number of their habits. One of the habits the researchers looked at was coffee drinking, including the age at which the participants started drinking coffee and how much they drank every day.
There was one important difference between the groups. One group consisted of healthy individuals, while the other group was made up of individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). The researchers wanted to investigate coffee habits between the two groups because caffeine and some of the other substances in coffee are known to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Sure enough, the researchers found that the less coffee people drank, the higher their risk of MS tended to be. In fact, those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day for five years had about a 30% lower risk of MS compared to those who didn’t drink coffee at all.
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The researchers do caution that this association does not necessarily indicate a cause and effect. There could certainly be other factors involved in this correlation. But as caffeine consumption has also been found to have protective effects in studies of other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, these findings are certainly interesting.
Researchers will continue trying to tear apart the many contributors to these devastating diseases. It’s possible they will recommend coffee drinking as a protective strategy. I’m sure that would make a lot of people happy! If you already have a strong coffee habit, you may be able to justify it to others. Just make sure that it’s not interfering with your sleep and that you’re not loading it up with excess sugar. A teaspoon or two in one cup isn’t a big deal, but multiply that by six, and it adds up!
If you normally drink just a cup a day, don’t immediately jump to six either. That much caffeine can be a shock to your system if you aren’t used to it. Instead, think about going from one to two and see how you feel. You’ll still experience plenty of the benefits of the caffeine and the coffee itself without getting too jittery.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
José Maria Andreas Wijnands, Elaine Kingwell. Time to wake up and smell the coffee? Coffee consumption and multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2016; jnnp-2015-312431 DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2015-312431.