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Published: Sunday, 3/12/2006

Eye-opener on coffee?

When Americans woke up one recent morning to the news that regular coffee is linked to heart attacks, most of them, we are sure, still reached for a second cup. Caffeinated coffee, researchers reported, raises the risk of nonfatal heart attacks in most people by 64 percent.

But when was it - a month or two ago? - that the experts were saying coffee is good for us?

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated the new study examined participants to determine whether they have a gene variation that determines how much we are affected by caffeine. The fact that the study appeared in the Journal means it's intended for review by the researchers' peers, not that it should be automatically accepted as gospel.

Most of America's 172 million coffee drinkers will do as a Harvard School of Public Health researcher said she will and just keep drinking coffee. While we await further guidance, perhaps you could make the switch to decaf just in case.

Coffee drinkers are not the only ones confused and a little irritated by studies which seen to come to exactly opposite conclusions regarding just what will hurt us and what won't.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a New York cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign, said her patients are confused and that she is annoyed. She has plenty of company.

However, whether espresso, latte, cappuccino, or plain old black brew is your beverage of choice, there is a lesson here: Take everything in moderation, especially studies that sometimes present conflicting advice.

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