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Another Cup of Coffee, Please

Studies show that a little caffeine in the morning poses no offense

Coffee may not have the medicinal power of green tea, but for most people it gets a relatively clean bill of health. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health found no significant increase in the risk of heart disease or stroke among men who drank up to four cups of coffee a day.

Since coffee is high in caffeine, and caffeine boosts heart rates and raises blood pressure, scientists had worried that coffee drinking might contribute to higher rates of heart disease. A smaller, earlier study had suggested just that, but the concern now seems alleviated, both by the Harvard research and a second study by the Kaiser Permanente health care organization in California.

This is not to say that there aren't physical effects to coffee drinking. Small amounts of caffeine spur brain cells, helping to improve concentration and reaction time and to relieve drowsiness and fatigue. But too much caffeine can often lead to irritability and restlessness and the inability to sleep. Caffeine also stimulates more frequent urination, as any coffee drinker knows. But earlier suspicions that coffee might be linked to bladder cancer have been dispelled by recent research.

Still, not everyone can drink coffee with impunity. Pregnant women raise their risk of miscarriage 22 percent with just one eight-ounce cup of coffee daily. Caffeine also is likely to cause various "withdrawal" effects, such as headaches or depression, among those attempting to break their coffee habit. But figure this one: According to a 1989 survey of women over 60 in Washtenaw County, Mich., 62 percent of those who drank at least one cup of coffee a day reported being sexually active, compared with only 37.5 percent of the coffee teetotalers.

Today's Jive About Java

In a recent survey conducted by the National Coffee Association, the following percentage of Americans agreed with these statements:

The amount of coffee I am drinking now is about right for me. 86%
Coffee is an affordable luxury. 60%
Drinking coffee is a good a way to relax. 57%
Compared to other beverages you buy and drink away from home, coffee is a better value. 56%
Coffee is becoming more popular among people like me. 55%
I feel better about drinking coffee than I used to. 53%
I feel decaffeinated coffee is a better choice for health-conscious people like me. 52%
The variety of coffees now has really added excitement to drinking coffee. 50%
Coffee helps me get things done. 39%
I am likely to drink more decaffeinated coffee in the coming year. 30%
I am concerned about the amount of coffee I currently drink. 24%

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Updated on October 8, 1995