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By George: FROM COFFEE to the "OTHER END"

With so many cups of coffee consumed daily, scientists have conducted many studies to weigh the possible health impacts.  Now, researchers report an intriguing observation in The New England Journal of Medicine:  people who drink coffee appear to live longer. In the largest study of coffee and health to date, researchers examined data from a diet and lifestyle questionnaire administered to more than 400,000 people. They determined that men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 10% lower overall rate of death. Whether caffeinated or not, coffee was also associated with decreased risk of death from heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes, and infection-but not cancer.  Importantly, as coffee consumption increased, the risk of death decreased in step, suggesting the connection it may not be mere coincidence.

Although this study cannot draw a cause-and-effect link between coffee and longevity, it strongly suggests there is no harm in it. If you are looking for unhealthy habits to break, focus on overeating, smoking, and sedentary living.

Findings from a large clinical trial reported in The New England Journal of Medicine add to previous evidence that undergoing a flexible sigmoidoscopy every three to five years reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer later in life. This is important because sigmoidoscopy is less invasive and easier to prep for than full colonoscopy, which uses a longer instrument to examine the entire colon. Some people might choose to undergo sigmoidoscopy who might otherwise avoid screening. Also, this procedure has fewer complications, easier prep and no sedation is necessary.

Half of the 154,900 people in the study had flexible sigmoidoscopy to examine the lower colon for pre­ cancerous growths, and then follow-up sigmoidoscopy every three to five years. The others underwent a mix of sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or no screening at all. This second group would be expected to develop more cancers, due to the overall lower level of screening. After 12 years of follow up, the overall incidence of colorectal cancer in the people who underwent sigmoidoscopy was 21% lower.

By: George Elliott