Coffee is good for you, studies celebrate.
No, wait, coffee is bad for you, other studies warn.
So what's the deal with all this conflicting buzz?
"Overall from what I've seen, it's not a problem," said Dr. Caroline J. Cederquist, a Naples-based doctor with board certification in bariatrics — the specialty of medical weight management.
Cederquist has appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show and runs BistroMD, a national weight loss program with food delivery, run with her foodie husband, Ed Cederquist, and other nutrition and fitness experts.
Coffee is high in antioxidants, has no sugar and no fat, she said. One cup has 1 calorie.
But this means black coffee.
The case for coffee weakens once you stir in mocha, caramel, sugar, cream and other additives.
But wading through countless studies on plain coffee, mostly positive, one is particularly optimistic: Depression risk drops with the more coffee you drink, a 2011 study discovered, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This was a 10-year study of 2,607 cases of depression.
Basically, a few cups of black coffee a day aren't going to kill you any sooner. They may actually benefit you.
Keep in mind a cup of coffee is considered be 6 to 8 ounces.
Realistically, not so much. At Starbucks, a "tall" is 12 ounces, "grande" is 16 and a "venti," 24.
Still, drinking as many as six cups of joe a day is not associated with increased risk in death from any cause, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, wrote Rob van Dam, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, on the school website's "The Nutrition Source."
In countries such as Denmark where people drink eight to 10 cups a day, they have a much lower instance of diabetes than those in countries with similar socio-economic demographics, Cederquist said.
A few decades ago, Starbucks changed all that for those of us living in the U.S.
"Our coffee is not your mother's coffee," Cederquist said. "We're essentially putting a slice of cake into it. With cream and sugar and Frappuccinos, it's the caloric equivalent of a meal."
While coffee connoisseurs wax about the culinary attributes of their favorite bean, coffee is still a drug to many people.
Caffeine is the world's most widely used central nervous system stimulant, with about 80 percent consumed in the form of coffee, according to the Journal of American Medical Association.
Alertness is imperative for Joshua Wright, 36, a firefighter in Fort Myers who drinks no less than half a 12-cup pot of coffee a day, usually three-quarters or more. He's also active in CrossFit, a fitness program of high-intensity interval training and weight lifting.
Wright's first coffee of the day comes from a Rival autodrip brewer and fills a Tervis Tumbler right when he wakes up. He blends his coffee with grass-fed, unsalted butter, coconut oil and grass-fed chocolate or vanilla whey protein powder.
Sometimes that's his breakfast.
"I'm hit or miss on breakfast, but I'll always have that first thing, before I leave the house," said Wright, who can't get six, or even four, hours of uninterrupted sleep during his 24-hour firefighting shifts. "Sometimes it's two Tumblers if it's a rough morning, and I'll have at least two more cups of black before lunch, and I try not to do it after lunch, but I'm not too good about that."
A protein shake is OK for breakfast, but Cederquist warns against using coffee as a food replacement, especially in the morning.
She specializes in metabolic dysfunction and authored "MD Factor," a book coming out in September. Some of her new patients live on coffee instead of breakfast and lunch, and then overeat at dinnertime. Those long stretches of time with no food teach the body to get better at storing fat.
There is an addictive component too, but doctors say black coffee is relatively harmless compared to smoking, overeating, drugs and alcohol.
"I'd probably have an easier time giving up food for a week than coffee. It would probably be less painful," Wright said. He drinks about two cups before his workouts also.
Caffeine withdrawal is painful, as any regular java drinker who stops for a day or two knows. The pounding afternoon headache is all the evidence they need.
Another negative about coffee: It's not so good for people with heart palpitations, fibrocystic breasts or those with caffeine sensitivities, Cederquist said.
She doesn't ban black coffee from her healthy overweight patients. If they must add something to cut the bitterness, she suggests no-sugar almond milk and possibly stevia-based sweeteners.
Sensitivity to caffeine varies widely from one person to the next. The difference may be genetics, body weight, age and whether you ate a meal beforehand.
Arguably no one knows this fact better than Terry White, 67, who sipped an iced tea at the windowfront bar at RaceTrac on Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers. White has ADHD, said his friend, Denise Miller, 62, sitting beside him. They like to drink RaceTrac coffee with artificial sweeteners and cream or milk.
"Caffeine relaxes him. It puts him to sleep. Isn't that a hoot?" Miller said as he nodded and grinned. "When I was growing up, I could drink it straight. But now that our coffee's getting bolder in this country, I tame it up."
This brew is a staple in many people's diets.
Coffee is just always around, said Bruce Sitka, 55, a legal assistant from North Fort Myers. Sitka favors dark, bold black coffee, and he'll even drink it cold, from early morning to late afternoon.
"There's no question there's a jolt to it. It's just one of those things we like to get jacked up on," Sitka said. "I think it's a great thing that brings people together, a social lubricant for people who don't want to get liquored up.
"America runs on coffee."
Some interesting coffee facts
6: A cup of coffee is considered 6-8 ounces, technically, although that's not what we usually drink. For example, at Starbucks, a "tall is 12 ounces, "grande" is 16 and a "venti," 24.
16: A 16-ounce coffee could deliver as much as 400 milligrams of caffeine. Studies suggest just 100 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in a 6-ounce cup) are needed for the average person to get a lift.
75 percent: Caffeine has a relatively short half-life. After eight to 10 hours, 75 percent of the caffeine is gone from your body. Time your coffee right so it won't interfere with sleep.
Hundreds: Coffee contains hundreds of different compounds, including many antioxidants that protect our bodies from damaging chemicals associated with cancer and heart disease.
— Web-MD, USA TODAY, PolicyMic.com
Connect with this reporter: @AmySowder (Twitter).
- Darker roasts actually have less caffeine than light roasts, even though the flavor is stronger. Roasting burns off some of the caffeine. Longer brewing time means more caffeine.
- It's best to brew coffee with a paper filter to remove a substance that causes increases in LDL cholesterol. French press, espresso and Turkish coffee do not do this.
- Espresso actually contains less caffeine than brewed coffee, due to its deep roast and quick brewing.
Sources: Harvard School of Public Health and the National Coffee Association.