An authoritative answer to the coffee/health question

A question may be difficult (or impossible) to really answer, but that difficulty does not prevent authoritative people from supplying authoritative answers.

A November 16, 2015 press release brews up a new authoritative answer to the question “Is drinking coffee good or bad for your health”:

Moderate coffee drinking may lower risk of premature death
HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH

Boston, MA – People who drink about three to five cups of coffee a day may be less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee, according to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues….

“Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation,” said first author Ming Ding, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition. “That could explain some of our findings. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects.”

HuThe study is: “Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts,” Ming Ding, Ambika Satija, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Yang Hu, Qi Sun, Walter Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu [pictured here], Circulation, online November 16, 2015.

The authors and their institution made a video to inform the public that the coffee question has now been answered:

BONUS ACTIVITY: Read the entire press release, and also the entire study. Count the number of times you see the words “may” or “could“.

BONUS BONUS ACTIVITY: Read several press accounts of this study. For each press account, count the number of times you see the words “may” or “could“. Perhaps begin with these two news reports: “Drink up, coffee’s good for you. (Even decaf!)” and “Coffee could literally be a lifesaver“.

EXTRA BONUS BONUS ACTIVITY, FOR EXTREMELY NERDY READERS ONLY: In the space of one minute (60 seconds), list five reasons why it is difficult or impossible to find the real answer to the question “Is drinking coffee good or bad for your health?”

Improbable Research