National Geographic News
Java drinkers will surely get a jolt from the news that coffee is the top source of disease-fighting antioxidants in the U.S. diet, according to a new study.
The popular beverage beat out black tea, bananas, dry beans, and cornall common sources of antioxidants.
But don't get too juiced up about the health benefits of coffee just yet. Study authors and other experts warn that people get the most disease protection when they consume a wide variety of antioxidants, and coffee only carries a few specific types.
Also, health risks associated with caffeine, such as high blood pressure, mean the beverage should still be drunk in moderation, experts say.
Antioxidants are specialized chemicals that neutralize molecules called free radicals in the human body, explains Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
When too many free radicals build up in the body, they start to damage cells and can cause cancer and heart disease. Numerous studies in recent years have touted the benefits of eating foods high in antioxidants to ward off such diseases.
"Antioxidants are compounds already in your body, but you need more than what the body produces," Vinson, the study's lead author, said.
Vinson's team analyzed the amount of antioxidants in a variety of foods and compared those figures to how much of each food type, on average, people in the U.S. consume.
They found that the average person guzzles down more than a thousand milligrams of antioxidants a day from coffee. This rate far surpasses the next runner-up, black tea, which accounts for a few hundred milligrams a day on average.
Vinson presented the team's findings last Sunday at a chemistry conference in Washington, D.C.
But Vinson and his colleagues acknowledge that high consumption doesn't translate to better benefits. Less frequently consumed foods and drinks have higher antioxidant concentrations and contain a wider array of compounds.
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