Coffee is good for you, but I’m eating broccoli instead

IT SEEMS like only yesterday that we were writing in these pages about how bad coffee is for you. Too many cups a day, we reported, can lead to exhausted adrenal glands, an increased chance of osteoporosis, huge swings in blood sugar levels and other more obvious effects such as indigestion and sleeplessness. Enough to make you think twice before picking up your morning macchiato.

But what’s this? Here is another study which says that, actually, coffee is good for you. Or for those who are worried about developing Type 2 diabetes, anyway. Type 2, or late onset, diabetes is one of the fastest growing health problems in the developed world, and increases the chances of heart attacks, strokes and problems with the kidneys among other nasty effects.

Research published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who drink three or four cups of coffee a day have a 25 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who drank between none and two cups. The researchers found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were just as good, with those who drank more than three-to-four cups a day having a 36 per cent lower risk. Tea was also good, and those who drank three cups a day (black or green) had an 18 per cent lower risk.

All very interesting, no doubt, but almost totally useless. All this contradictory information is one of the bugbears of modern life. We all want to live more healthily, but are left in the paradoxical situation where the more we read, the less we know. So why does this happen?

The fact is, this is consumer-led science. Tea, coffee, wine and chocolate are the subjects of so much research not because they are miracle substances, but because people want to read that their little treats are also good for them. Broccoli, brown rice and running five miles a day are probably all better for you, but we just don’t want to read about it. So the scientists don’t do the same kind of fervent, confusing research.

It’s no surprise that the coffee study we’re looking at is about Type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by obesity. It is the quintessential rich country disease. What makes scientists look at Type 2 diabetes – or obesity, or heart disease – is that there is money in it. It’s the same impetus that makes them refine already excellent drugs that address these diseases while ignoring the diseases that kill people without money.

My resolution in the new year is to ignore stories telling me how good chocolate is for me. And to eat more broccoli.

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