Prostate : Coffee Could Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Kim Brown

The buzz about coffee has been percolating recently after one study suggested that six cups a day could reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

A study released in 2011 by Harvard scientists indicates that men who drink heavy amounts of coffee could have a reduced risk of lethal prostate cancer.

But before you reach for that sixth cup, you must first think about all the factors associated with coffee consumption, local dietitians say.

In the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, called "Coffee Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Progression," scientists analyzed 47,911 men. The subjects reported their intake of coffee -- both regular and decaffeinated -- from 1986 to 2006, in four-year increments.

"We observed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of lethal prostate cancer. The association appears to be related to non-caffeine components of coffee," according to the study's abstract.

"Coffee contains many biologically active compounds, including caffeine and phenolic acids, that have potent antioxidant activity and can affect glucose metabolism and sex hormone levels," it continues. "Because of these biological activities, coffee may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer."

But Tulsa-area dietitians still believe that moderation is key for coffee drinkers, no matter what the study reports.

"I thought it was interesting for sure because, really, coffee doesn't seem to get a really positive buzz in health journals or even in the media," said Rachel Vincent, a registered dietitian and the Food and Nutrition Manager at St. John Owasso. "Besides antioxidants, it's not really something I feel has been studied as much."

She also noted that the study does not "differentiate between caffeinated or decaf," she said. "There's definitely a physical addition to caffeine. If you're drinking six cups of coffee a day, there's going to be a physical withdrawal if you all of a sudden cannot anymore."

She said people with other health issues, such as high blood pressure or heart conditions, should talk to their doctor before reaching for more coffee.

"Because caffeine is a stimulant, you have to take into account your total health before adding it into your regimen," Vincent said.

Cece Davis, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Consultants Of Tulsa, was not influenced by the study.

"To me, this is not a strong case for increasing caffeine intake," Davis said. "Basically it's not significant -- that's the takeaway. I can't believe (the study) is such a big deal."

Davis said its findings did not persuade her to suggest adding more coffee to the diet.

"In moderation, coffee is fine. There really hasn't been a strong link to anything (unhealthy) except hypertension," Davis said. "As long as someone's already consuming three cups -- which would be 24 ounces or under -- in a day, there is no risk."

And coffee has antioxidants because the beans come from plants, both dietitians said.

"A diet high in antioxidants is great. Normally they come in something bright and colorful, like fruits and vegetables," Vincent said. "But (the study) didn't really show whether it was regular coffee or instant coffee or espresso. There are a lot of variables in there. I definitely as a dietitian would not start telling all patients we need to see an increase in coffee."

But she also would not necessarily tell them to stop drinking it altogether.

"If they're already drinking four cups, say two regular and two decaf. I wouldn't put the breaks on," she said. Coffee talk Dietitian Rachel Vincent said drinking coffee in moderation is fine, but it depends on how you take your morning java.

"I'm sure in that study when they're promoting more coffee, they were not promoting something like a frozen coffee drink," Vincent said. "When you start adding ice cream, you increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes."

How healthy is your morning cup of Joe?

Black coffee -- It has zero calories, no additional fat, no carbohydrates. Vincent recommends this.

Coffee with skim milk -- Add lowfat or nonfat milk only. It will add some calcium and a small amount of protein.

Coffee with artificial sweetener -- Mix it up. Change from Splenda to Equal to stevia. "Don't get one artificial sweetener and stick with it," Vincent said. "No health risks have been proven one way or the other, but if you use only one (sweetener) and it turns out to be unhealthy, you already have had a lot of it."

Kim Brown 918-581-8474

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