Why stop at that second cup? Or third? A new study from our friends at Brooklyn College makes it clear — well, as clear as scientists can make anything — that drinking four cups of coffee a day can help you stave off heart disease. There are caveats, of course: the study only looked at people over 65, and it was initiated decades ago, when coffee serving sizes were a lot smaller. But who cares? The same Brooklyn College professor who made this latest finding also showed that coffee can cut down on diabetes, so there’s never been a better time to have that fourth cup — or to check in with professor James Greenberg, as Gersh Kuntzman did this week.
Q: I was excited by your study, and not because my heart rate was elevated because I drink a lot of coffee. I was excited because now it seems that all the coffee I’m drinking actually has a positive side.
A: Well, first, I caution you that the study is not conclusive. The role of studies like this is to generate hypotheses for future testing. As a scientist, you never want to just believe one study. You know how scientists are.
Q: What, coffee addicts?
A: No, I meant that we’ll repeat the study many times. No one should change his behavior just yet and start guzzling coffee.
Q: So how did this study come about?
A: The federal government started collecting data on senior citizens in 1980. They took blood from people and then went back and found the people 10 years later. If the person was dead, they noted the cause of death. So we went back and took this wealth of information and studied whether there was some conclusion we could draw about people who drank a lot of caffeinated beverages. And there it was: People who drank four or more servings of a caffeinated beverage had a 53-percent lower chance of dying of cardio-vascular disease.
Q: I may not be a scientist, but it sounds like I should drink coffee.
A: It seems like a smart idea. But like I said, it’s only one study. It’s very preliminary. Someone might do a study that shows some harm.
Q: This is like how my mother used to tell me to go out and play in the sun. Now she tells me to stay out of the sun. What’s with you scientists? Why can’t you just get this stuff right in the first place?
A: It’s not us. Reality is complicated. We look at it one piece at a time. But there is substantial evidence that there are a lot of good things in coffee. It’s very high in anti-oxidants. In the Nordic countries, people get most of their anti-oxidants from coffee.
Q: And I thought it was from the reindeer. The good news is that you’re putting your mouth where your study money is and still drinking coffee, right?
A: Well, yes, but not so much. Even better than coffee is a mixture of coffee and non-fat cocoa powder. It gives it a fuller, more complex flavor.