- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

When the Ink Spots sang “I love the java jive and it loves me” in 1940, they could not have known how right they were.

Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up one’s energy, it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released yesterday.

Of course, too much coffee can make people jittery and even raise cholesterol levels, so health authorities stress moderation.

The findings by Joe A. Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, give a healthy boost to the warming beverage.



“The point is, people are getting the most antioxidants from beverages, as opposed to what you might think,” Mr. Vinson said in a telephone interview.

Antioxidants, which are thought to help battle cancer and provide other health benefits, are abundant in grains, tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables.

Mr. Vinson said he was researching tea and cocoa and other foods and decided to study coffee, as well.

His team analyzed the antioxidant content of more than 100 food items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and common beverages. They then used Agriculture Department data on typical food-consumption patterns to calculate how much antioxidant each food contributes to a person’s diet.

They concluded that the average adult consumes 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants daily from coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams. Rounding out the top five sources were bananas, 76 milligrams; dry beans, 72 milligrams; and corn, 48 milligrams. According to the Agriculture Department, the typical adult American drinks 1.64 cups of coffee daily.

The antioxidants in coffee are known as polyphenols. Sometimes they are bound to a sugar molecule, which covers up the antioxidant group, Mr. Vinson said.

The first step in measuring them was to break that sugar link. He noted that chemicals in the stomach do the same thing, freeing the polyphenols.

His findings were released in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Chemical Society in Washington.

In February, a team of Japanese researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that people who drank coffee daily, or nearly every day, had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank it. The protective effect occurred in people who drank one to two cups a day and increased at three to four cups.

Last year, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking coffee cut the risk of developing the most common form of diabetes.

Men who drank more than six 8-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee per day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, and women reduced their risk by nearly 30 percent, compared with people who did not drink coffee, according to the study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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