HEALTHY LIVING
09/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Coffee: The Truth Behind The Myths

As with any product used to excess, consumers often wonder about the health consequences. And researchers readily oblige. Hardly a month goes by without a report that hails coffee, tea or caffeine as healthful or damns them as potential killers.

Can all these often contradictory reports be right? Yes. Coffee and tea, after all, are complex mixtures of chemicals, several of which may independently affect health.

Caffeine Myths

Through the years, the public has been buffeted by much misguided information about caffeine and its most common source, coffee. In March the Center for Science in the Public Interest published a comprehensive appraisal of scientific reports in its Nutrition Action Healthletter. Its findings and those of other research reports follow.

Hydration. It was long thought that caffeinated beverages were diuretics, but studies reviewed last year found that people who consumed drinks with up to 550 milligrams of caffeine produced no more urine than when drinking fluids free of caffeine. Above 575 milligrams, the drug was a diuretic.

So even a Starbucks grande, with 330 milligrams of caffeine, will not send you to a bathroom any sooner than if you drank 16 ounces of pure water. Drinks containing usual doses of caffeine are hydrating and, like water, contribute to the body's daily water needs.

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