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Drinking coffee linked to longer survival in colorectal cancer patients, study suggests

TORONTO — Drinking coffee has been linked to increased life expectancy, added protection against heart disease and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s. Now, new research suggests that coffee could be helpful for patients fighting advanced colorectal cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada.

The study, published Thursday in the scientific journal JAMA, looked at 1,171 patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. Researchers found that patients with increased coffee consumption at the time they enrolled in the study showed “significant” associations with lower risk of disease progression and death.

Benefits were noted for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

One possible reason for the link, researchers suggest, is that coffee contains several compounds with “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and insulin-sensitizing effects, which may contribute to anticancer activity.” However, the study’s authors note that more research is needed in order to pinpoint the underlying reasons.

This is hardly the first piece of research to suggest drinking coffee has health benefits. Back in 2017, researchers from the U.K. analyzed more than 200 studies on coffee consumption and noted reduced risks of several types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

The U.K. researchers concluded that three cups of coffee per day had the largest reduction in relative risk of death, and that benefits were less pronounced with anything more than three cups per day.

But if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, coffee may not be helpful. Research from Cornell University found that after drinking coffee, the taste buds are briefly altered so that food and drinks seem less sweet. Researchers concluded that the change in sensitivity to sweetness could make some people crave more sugar.

An estimated 26,900 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and 9,700 will die, according to Colorectal Cancer Canada. The disease is becoming even more prevalent among younger Canadians, with a recent study finding that the risk of colorectal cancer among men aged 20 to 29 in 2015 was more than double the age group’s risk in 1936.

Researchers also pointed out that rates of the disease in Canadians under 50 have been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s, while rates have been mostly falling for those over 50 since the 1980s.​

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