Harvard Business Review
G e t t y I m a g e s
WHAT’S THE ENGINE
that drives Ameri-can business? Innovation? Perspiration?Capital? Try cofee. From the shop ﬂoorto the boardroom, java – and I don’tmean the soware – uels workers andshapes o ce culture. What’s more, asteaming cup o joe may be as good or your health as it is or the bottom line.Many people take their cofee witha small dose o guilt, wor-ried that it isn’t good orthe body. That’s a hold-over rom studies done inthe 1950s and 1960s show-ing that cofee drinkerswere prone to pancreaticcancer, heart disease, andother woes. These stud-ies ailed to account orcigarette smoking, whichonce went hand in cup with cofee drink-ing. Since then, the medical communityhas done a gradual about-ace on thehealth efects o cofee.Large, long-term studies show thatcofee doesn’t promote cancer and mayeven protect against some types. It’s saeor the heart – so sae that the AmericanHeart Association says it’s OK or heartattack survivors to have a cup or two aday even as they recover in the coronarycare unit. Results rom the long-runningHealth Proessionals Follow-Up andNurses’ Health studies show that drink-ing cofee cuts the risk o dying earlyrom a heart attack or stroke. Cofeealso appears to ofer some small protec-tion against Type diabetes, gallstones,and Parkinson’s disease.It’s possible that the bean improvesproductivity, too. A jolt o cafeine wakesup millions o workersin the morning (al-though this hints atits addictive property).Controlled laboratoryexperiments indicatethat it causes eelingso well-being and in-creases energy, alert-ness, and motivation.Functional MRI scansshow that cofee activates parts o the brain involved in short-term memory,the kind that helps ocus attention ontasks at hand.For all that, a word o warning is inorder. The average cup o cofee servesup about 100 milligrams o cafeine, anda large specialty cofee can deliver ﬁvetimes that much. I you aren’t used to ca-eine, it can make you jittery, boost your blood pressure, and dehydrate you. Butthe biggest health hazard is the extrastuf that drinkers add to cofee. Taken black, cofee is a nearly calorie-ree beverage brimming with antioxidantsand other phytonutrients. Add cream,sugar, whipped cream, and ﬂavorings,and it turns into a at- and calorie-ladendessert, which can add pounds thatofset any possible health beneﬁts. Forexample, a 16-ounce Mint Mocha ChipFrappuccino with chocolate whippedcream contains 470 calories. Tucked intothis beverage are 12 grams o saturatedat – nearly a day’s worth – and 58 grams(that’s 14 teaspoons) o sugar.For most people, though, the healthand social beneﬁts o cofee outweighthe hazards, and the daily grind keepsAmerican business percolating.
Thomas H. Lee
is a professor of medicineat Harvard Medical School in Boston,the CEO of Partners Community Health-Care, and the editor of the
Reprint R0906ATo order, see page 115.
Good News forCoffee Addicts
Functional MRIscans show thatcoffee activatesparts of the brainthat help focusattention ontasks at hand.
Health & Well-Being
BY THOMAS H. LEE, MD