A 16th century reference to coffee drinking describes how a Sufi Sheik from the Gulf of Aden used coffee, even though it had been forbidden by the orthodox imams in Mecca. Coffee is the most popular mild psychoactive substance in the world, so it is not surprising that a Sufi would embrace it to maintain physical energy in support of spiritual practices such as chanting, singing, meditating, dancing and whirling to achieve trance states. Coffee drinking soon became so popular that the bans were lifted in Islamic countries. Despite early resistance to coffee drinking by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, Christianity blessed the practice in 1600 when Pope Clement VIII no longer considered it a Moslem drink. Scribal monks then began to use it to improve concentration and reduce fatigue while copying manuscripts.

Even though there have been attempts to forbid the use of coffee during the past 500 years, the habit has taken hold. It turns out that, in moderation, coffee drinking is beneficial to health in quite a few ways. So, if you need to buy or replace a coffee maker, we have compared drip coffee makers side by side and identified the Cuisinart Programmable Automatic Brew and Serve as the TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner, the KRUPS Programmable Coffee Maker as the TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner, and the Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable as the TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award winner.

There are sufficient published research reports to suggest that coffee drinking reduces the likelihood of dementia and Alzheimer s disease at the onset of old age. And according to studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, men and women who drink coffee have lower incidences of gallstones and gallbladder diseases. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that describes how coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Parkinson s disease. Other respected medical literature shows that coffee drinking increases short term memory recall, reduces the possibility of cirrhosis of the liver and reduces the risk of various cancers (breast, esophageal, pharyngeal and prostate). The literature also shows that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from heart disease and they are less prone to dental cavities and gout.

However, coffee drinking is also associated with an equally impressive list of risks. In the interest of full disclosure, the flip side to the health benefits of coffee drinking goes beyond the inconveniences of stained teeth, nervous jitters, insomnia and irritability. The Baylor College of Medicine conducted a study with results that link the use of coffee to higher levels of cholesterol, specifically LDL (low-density lipoprotein). And according to a study in Denmark, pregnant women who are heavy coffee users (four-to-seven cups daily) are at greater-than-average risk of stillbirths. Coffee also causes iron deficiency anemia in mothers and babies. People with gastrointestinal problems should not drink coffee because it can cause gastritis and exacerbate ulcers.

Armed with these research results for the situations where coffee drinking is not indicated, you can decide for yourself whether or not it is healthy for you. Even Voltaire s 40-cup-a-day habit, observed by other 17th century writers at Le Procope (the first caf  in Paris), did not seem to hurt him:  I ve been drinking coffee for over 50 years. That it is poison, I am convinced, but its ill effects have yet to have any bearing on my health.  Benjamin Franklin also frequented Le Procope and composed this ode to coffee: "Among the numerous luxuries of the table ... coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions ... is never followed by sadness, languor or debility."

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