"Go ahead and drink as much as you want and can"

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Nectar of the Finns
  • Nectar of the Finns
Just the day after Kevin Warwick's coffee saga ran in the Reader, the Atlantic's blog featured a post on new research showing all sorts of beneficial effects from drinking coffee. Most recently, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (interestingly, this holds whether it's regular or decaf). Coffee drinking's also been linked to lowered risks of colon cancer and heart disease, and may help delay the onset of Alzheimer's. That's why some doctors are now recommending that people drink at least a couple of cups a day. Some go further—"What I tell patients is, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink as much as you want and can," Dr. Peter Martin told Lindsay Abrams, author of the Atlantic piece.

True, Martin's the director of Vanderbilt's Institute for Coffee Studies, which is funded by the likes of Kraft, Nestle, Starbucks, and various international coffee consortia. But a study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a "significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality" when adjusted for smoking. In other words: drink more coffee, live longer (maybe). More specifically, a recent meta-analysis suggests that the optimum dose for lowering the incidence of heart failure is four cups a day.

Which brings us to the Finns.

Finland leads the world in coffee consumption per capita, with the other Scandinavian countries right behind. Most Finns drink at least four cups a day, egged along by institutionalized coffee breaks in the midmorning and midafternoon. Special occasions are celebrated with coffee parties, which traditionally consist of four courses' worth of cakes, cookies, and pulla, a yeasted sweet bread flavored with cardamom.

But, wait a minute, you say. Are Finns healthier? Sounds like a job for the Institute for Coffee Studies.

In the meantime, pulla.

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