A History of Healthy Coffee

Is drinking coffee  healthy?  How much coffee is too much and how do we know? Here's what we do know: The New York Times announced that coffee makes drinkers' livers stronger and that's just one of the hundreds of recent studies professing the health benefits of the brown beverage. Academics say that as long as you drink under four cups a day, coffee is one of the healthiest drinks out there! And it's not just the caffeine -- scientists have speculated that there is something inherent to coffee itself that's responsible for its benefits.

This posting made me wonder, has coffee always been depicted in such a good light? I was inspired to dig through old New York Times stories on coffee, caffeine and health. I quickly realized that, while coffee has clearly been a hot topic for for a long time, the recent spotlight has been much kinder than earlier decades' fear-evoking examinations. I found it curious that coffee was depicted as a potential threat for years before pro-java arguments and studies became the new norm. Below is a timeline of scientific findings about coffee that clearly show the attitude shift over the years.

I'm eager to see if coffee-centric media continues its commendations or reverts back to alarming evidence against the morning beverage. In the meantime, however, I hope you feel guilt-free about your morning cup ... your second morning cup ... and your afternoon cup. After all, the news is full of reasons why you should be drinking coffee ... at least for now.

1929 - A brief blurb in the New York Times mentioned that at the National Coffee Roasters Association's annual convention, the head of the biology and public health department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared that coffee was "a beverage which, properly prepared and rightly used, gives comfort and inspiration and augments mental and physical activities."

1949- The Framingham Heart Study was initiated to measure the relationship between caffeinated beverage consumption and heart disease. Results were later published in the New York Times  in 1983 stating that no causal connection exists between coffee and atherosclerosis.

1950-60's - It's not easy to find detailed research but there was a general concern about potential dangers related to coffee and caffeine intake.

1962- The average American drank 3.12 cups of coffee per day.

1975- Trichloroethylene (TCE) was found to cause liver cancer in mice. All coffee roasters stopped using TCE by July, 1975.

1977- The average American consumed 2.19 cups of coffee per day. Excessive coffee drinking (10+ cups per day) is stated to be related to anxiety attacks incidents where the coffee fanatics are mistakenly treated with tranquilizers.

1981- The Harvard School of Public Health announced that they discovered a link between coffee and pancreatic cancer. The paper suggested that drinking one cup of coffee per day doubled drinkers' risk of dying of pancreatic cancer. Drinking three or more cups of coffee each day was said to triple that risk. Thus began a consume-at-your-own-risk attitude.

1982- The New England Journal of Medicine responded to a 1980 FDA warning that claimed "prudent women" should not drink coffee while pregnant. The Journal refuted that claim by publishing that smoking, not coffee, endangered unborn fetuses.

1983- The New York Times cited the spokesman for the Institute of Food Technology for saying that people hurt themselves more by worrying about risks associated with caffeinated beverages than drinking the beverages themselves. Three cups of coffee a day or less was defined as perfectly safe while 10 cups or more was decidedly "excessive."

1984- The average American consumed 1.99 cups of coffee per day.

1985- The color orange became associated with decaf coffee as large producers like Folgers and Maxwell House began offering caffeine-free alternatives.

1986- Harvard rescinded their 1981 coffee-causes-pancreatic-cancer claim.

1989- Boiled coffee was previously associated with increased cholesterol. New filter-based brew methods, however, eliminated the risk.

1994- Adult women were advised to drink one cup of milk each day to counteract the bone-thinning effects of a lifetime of coffee drinking.

1999- A summary in the New York Times reflected positively on coffee drinking and eased everyone's minds. The article stated that coffee drinkers had no greater risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, pancreatic cancer, high cholesterol, digestive complications or bone loss.  Contrary to stacks of previous literature, the newspaper claimed that coffee may, in fact, be beneficial: two to three cups per day could help illicit early warning signs of hypoglycemia in diabetics, more than three cups helped relieve symptoms of asthma while more than five cups per day could reduce the occurrence of malignant tumors.

2006- Pro-coffee analyses became more prevalent. One study proclaimed that a single cup of coffee each day reduced alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver by 30 percent while four daily cups reduced the cirrhosis by up to 80 percent. These stats were not attributed to coffee's caffeine content by rather another component found in coffee though the researchers were not completely sure which chemical.

2008- One to three cups of coffee a day was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women by 24 percent.

2009- Danish and Swedish researchers published that three to five cups of coffee a day prevented dementia by 65 percent while stating that they see great reason to study more deeply the connection between Parkinson's diseases and coffee's antioxidant qualities.

2013- A large epidemiological study conducted by the National Cancer Institute reported that people who drank two to three cups of coffee daily were statistically less likely to die over the course of the year-long study. Participants with cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded. Overall, coffee-drinking men were 10 percent less likely to die overall while their female counterparts were 13 percent less likely to die. The New York Times piece on the study concluded that, while scientists were unsure why non-drinkers died significantly more throughout the year, the striking correlation deserved additional research.

2014- Liver disease journal Hepatology, printed a study that found coffee, regardless of caffeine, protected drinkers' livers.

-Blog post written by New York Sales Associate, Christen Sturkie