Mouth feel, move over. Coffee may also pack a positive punch for mouth health, too.
In a new study, scientists have uncovered a strong link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of oral and pharyngeal cancers. American Cancer Society researchers found that those who drink four to six cups per day appear to knock their cancer risk down by half.
Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the report states that “Coffee, one of the most commonly consumed beverages worldwide, contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancer.”
Dr. Janet Hildebrand and team in Atlanta examined evidence for more than a million individuals collected in earlier studies and found a clear “inverse relationship” between coffee drinking and cancers of the mouth and pharynx, or oral cavity. That is to say, among those who drank coffee, the occurrence of the cancers was reduced across the board.
That relationship was not affected by variations in sex, age, smoking status or alcohol use. However, the protective properties were not evident until the intervening effects – or “confounding factors” – of smoking and alcohol consumption were isolated out of the analysis. In a similar way, old negative myths about coffee and health were disproved as scientific methodologies become increasingly refined. See “A Matter of Health,” below.
While the researchers focused on caffeinated coffee, they also noted a similar but less pronounced benefit with decaffeinated coffee. In the study, two or more cups of decaf daily appeared to result in a nearly 40% risk reduction. However, the scientists indicated that they would like to perform further analyses to increase the statistical significance of the decaf data. For tea, the study found no association.
As for the source of the protection, the researchers cited “multiple biologically active compounds” in coffee that may help to lower the risk of cancer. Besides caffeine, they noted the polyphenol caffeic acid and two coffee-specific compounds, cafestol and kahweol. Broadly described as “antioxidants,” these substances neutralize damage to DNA components caused routinely by oxygen.
Hundreds of other studies on coffee and caffeine have also found notable associations between coffee consumption and benefits to health. Lowering the risk of diabetes, protecting the liver against damage, warding off cognitive decline such as in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, and reducing the risk of colorcetal and other cancers are just a few of the associations between coffee and health that science has uncovered. Stay tuned for more.