Another Coffee Perk? Reduced Risk of MS
Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, according to a new report. It's the latest in coffee's growing list of health perks. Continue reading →
Brew up another pot of joe: Drinking coffee (and a lot of it) is associated with a reduced risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study finds.
Compared with people who said they never drank coffee, people who reported drinking large amounts of java were nearly a third less likely to develop MS, according to the study.
"We observed a significant association between high consumption of coffee and decreased risk of developing MS," the researchers, led by Anna Hedström, a doctoral student in environmental medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden wrote in the meta-analysis study, published March 3 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
The results of the study were previously presented in February 2015 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, but this is the first time they have been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
In the study, the researchers looked at the results of two large case-control studies, which included 2,779 people with MS and 3,960 people without MS. The researchers found that those individuals who reported the highest levels of coffee consumption (more than 4 cups [900 mL] a day) had a 29 percent lower risk of MS than those who reported drinking no coffee. [Coffee's Perks: Studies Find 5 Health Benefits]
The study showed an association, and not a cause-and-effect link between drinking lots of coffee and a lower risk of MS. But it's possible that caffeine has a protective effect on the brain and spinal cord, the study said. In people with MS, the body's immune system attacks the protective covering, called myelin, that surrounds nerve fibers. This damage makes it difficult for the brain to communicate with the rest of the body, resulting in symptoms such as muscle weakness, poor coordination, blurred vision and pain.
However, the researchers cautioned more studies are still needed. The scientists also noted that their analysis does have limitations, including that people were asked to recall their coffee intake, which could lead to errors.
Although previous studies looking at the link between coffee and MS have had mixed results, with some studies showing a benefit and others showing none, the current meta-analysis is notable in part for its large sample size and international group of participants, said two neurologists who were not involved in the study, but wrote an editorial accompanying it in the journal.
There are "well-known challenges that exist in untangling the nature of associations between dietary factors and disease risk," and therefore, "these inconsistencies are not surprising," wrote José Maria Andreas Wijnands and Elaine Kingwell, both neurologists at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
"Although it remains to be shown whether drinking coffee can prevent the development of MS, the results of these thorough analyses add to the growing evidence for the beneficial health effects of coffee," the editorial authors wrote.
Indeed, the once-maligned beverage has been linked to numerous health benefits in recent years, including a lower risk of heart attacks, melanoma and even early death. Coffee has also been linked to improved liver health.
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Kinky sex takes place in many coffee beans before they are roasted, suggests a new study on coffee berry borers, which are the most serious pests of coffee plants worldwide. These small beetles, native to Africa, live much of their lives in coffee beans, according to the study, which is published in the Journal of Insect Behavior. It's little wonder that the fast-living beetles,
, have the nickname "Ferrari." Weliton Dias Silva of the University of São Paulo and his colleagues determined that females of this tiny beetle "have to be copulated by their sibling males before leaving the native coffee fruit to improve their chances of successful colonization." Females are about .07 inches long, while males are only about .06 inches long.
Home for the coffee berry borer are the seeds of coffee fruit, which are commonly known as coffee beans. Dias Silva and his colleagues report that the insects find their coffee bean homes after sniffing out chemicals released by coffee plants. Like many gourmet coffee drinkers, they prefer beans of
Males are always much smaller than females, so they are referred to as "dwarves." "After copulation with their few dwarf, flightless male sibs,
females often leave the coffee berry in which they developed," Dias Silva and his team share. Females sometimes don't even wait around for males. In addition to their incestuous sex, they can also reproduce all on their own. This phenomenon, also seen in certain snakes, sharks and other animals, is known as parthenogenesis.
The telltale sign that a beetle has been in your coffee are minute holes that females bore into beans. Usually the beans will be eaten away by larvae, which hatch from eggs laid by the females. Another clue is a coffee bean that seems hollow inside.
Worldwide, the coffee berry borer causes an estimated $500 million in losses among coffee growers, according to the USDA. The coffee industry has an economic value exceeding $70 billion annually, with over 20 million coffee-farming families producing coffee in more than 50 countries. "The insect can cause coffee farmers to lose up to 20 percent of a crop and reduce the price by 30 to 40 percent," said Ted Lingle, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. He continued, "Damage from the borer fruits hurts every coffee-producing country in the world."
One of the major findings of the new study is that females are 15 days old when they leave their coffee bean homes, flying away to colonize another plant. Males don't leave, so one of your roasted coffee beans could have one or more burnt-to-a-crisp male coffee berry borers in it. Clearly these insects are bad news for coffee growers, so researchers are constantly seeking ways to control the pests. Vega mentioned that one technique is to "fight back with fungi" that the beetles hate. Another method is to introduce nemotodes, which are microscopic simple worms. The minute worms parasitize female coffee beetle borers, preventing them from laying many eggs. "Nonparasitized insects laid an average of 10 eggs, but parasitized borers laid just under 2 eggs on average," Vega explained.
While most infested beans are removed from the market, some invariably wind up in the roaster. Close inspection of most roasted beans reveals that they have been affected by coffee berry borers and possibly other insects.
Coffee plants attract a wide variety of insects, and not all of them are as damaging as the fast-living coffee berry borer. Richard Zack and Peter Landolt at Washington State University are studying biodiversity associated with coffee plants. They traveled to Guatemala and found an incredible number of bugs happily living on and around the plants. Zack and Landolt spotted 900 species of moths, yellow jackets, aquatic insects, cicadas, gigantic horned Goofa beetles, brown jewel beetles prized by collectors in Japan and Europe, and more. So the next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, consider all of the insects that interacted with the beans, including some that associate coffee with fast and furious sex.