Beck: Coffee offers health benefits even with a little sugar, suggests new study

Many tests suggest that daily coffee consumption helps prevent many health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer, as well as premature death.

So far, however, research has not distinguished between black coffee and sugary coffee. Which begs the question: does adding sugar to coffee lose its potential health benefits?

Now, a new study has investigated this query. Hint: If you drink your coffee with a teaspoon of sugar, you will be satisfied with the findings. Here’s what you need to know.

The latest research

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on May 31, looked at the association between sugar-free (black) coffee, artificially sweetened and sweetened, and the risk of mortality among 171,616 adults living in the UK. Participants, aged 37 to 73 years (mean age 56), had no history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer, and were followed for seven years.

At the beginning of the study, participants completed a dietary questionnaire to provide detailed information on coffee consumption and food intake. The researchers assessed daily calorie intake, sugar, red and processed meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as alcohol intake and the use of vitamin supplements.

The results: Compared to those who did not drink coffee, people who drank moderate amounts of sugar-free or sugary coffee had up to a 30% lower risk of premature death from any cause. Participants who drank sugary coffee only added a teaspoon of sugar to each cup.

Among black coffee drinkers, those who drank three cups a day had the lowest risk of mortality. For sugary coffee drinkers, drinking two cups a day was linked to lower mortality risk. One cup of coffee was defined as 250 ml or eight ounces.

Drinking a moderate amount of black coffee was also associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer during the study period.

These associations were consistent for ground, instant, and decaffeinated coffee.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers took into account the diets of the participants, as well as other factors such as the level of education, smoking status, physical activity, body mass index, circumference of waist, hypertension, diabetes, family history of cardiovascular disease or cancer, and medication use. .

The link between artificially sweetened coffee and the risk of dying was less consistent and inconclusive.

Strengths, drawbacks

This study has several strengths, including its large sample size and detailed information about coffee that included types of coffee that are not normally examined in other studies. The researchers also considered a wide range of dietary, lifestyle, and medical factors that may have influenced the findings.

One limitation of the study is that coffee consumption data were collected only at the beginning of the study, so no changes were captured over time. Some people may have switched from sugary coffee to black coffee, or vice versa, during the study.

Furthermore, the observational design of the study cannot show that drinking sugar-free or sugary coffee is directly responsible for preventing premature death.

However, coffee contains several bioactive compounds that make its health benefits conceivable.

Coffee protective ingredients

Caffeine and chlorogenic acid, a phytochemical in coffee, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Coffee extracts have also been shown to inhibit blood platelets from clumping together, suggesting that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.

Coffee compounds called diterpenes are thought to have anticancer effects. Coffee also contains magnesium, a mineral that helps the body secrete and use insulin properly.

Bottom line

If you drink your black coffee or just add a little sugar, these new findings can be reassuring. Drinking any type can help you live longer.

What this study doesn’t answer, of course, is whether drinking coffee laden with sugar and fat (e.g., Frappuccino, Caramel Macchiato, Tim Double by Tim Horton) is still potentially beneficial or at least not harmful.

Considering, however, that a double double of large Tim Horton has 24g of added sugar (worth 6 teaspoons), not to mention 10g of saturated fat, I can’t imagine a daily intake of these sweet coffee drinks be good to you.

Keep in mind, too, that the health benefits associated with black or lightly sweetened coffee are seen with a moderate intake. The risk of harmful effects increases with the abundant intake of coffee.

My advice: keep your coffee simple and your intake moderate. Enjoy it black or with a splash of milk. If you need to sweeten it, stick it to no more than a teaspoon of sugar.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practitioner, is Medcan’s director of nutrition and nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD

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