Feature Archive

Giving Coffee a Break

Old Joe

WebMD Feature For true coffee connoisseurs, the day doesn't get started until that first cup of joe. And when the afternoon slump occurs, there's no better pick-me-up. The real news, however, is that after years of hand-wringing, scientists are admitting that coffee poses very little risk for most people, and may keep us sharp. That's no surprise to java junkies.

"If it weren't for the coffee," David Letterman once quipped, "I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever."

That's a sentiment most coffee lovers can understand.

Treasured as it is, however, coffee has been blamed for a range of ills, from heart disease and cancer to osteoporosis. Are health dangers really lurking in our lattes?

Health experts offered reassuring words at the 1999 annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association: Drinking up to three cups of coffee a day poses no risk. What's more, coffee appears to have some surprising benefits.

False Alarms

It's easy to see why researchers take coffee seriously. One cup contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine -- enough to give infrequent coffee drinkers a potent kick, says Tony Chou, MD, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and an authority on how coffee affects our health. Half an hour after a good strong cup, a coffee drinker's resting metabolic rate -- the number of calories burned just sitting quietly -- increases by as much as 10%. Blood pressure climbs. Heart rate accelerates. Breathing speeds up.