The average amount of added sugar per cup of sugary coffee in the study was just over a teaspoon — far less than is typically added to many sugary drinks in coffee chains across the country. A large Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks, for example, contains 25 grams of sugar, about five times as much sugar as a cup of the study’s sweetened coffee.
“All bets are off when it comes to matching this with a latte, a Frappuccino, the super whipped mocha, whatever,” said Dr. Eric Goldberg, associate professor of clinical medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. . These drinks tend to be high in calories and fat, he said, negating or at least blunting any benefit of the coffee itself.
This new study is the latest in a strong line of research showing the potential health benefits of coffee, he said. Previous research has linked coffee consumption to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver and prostate cancer, and other health problems.
Scientists don’t know exactly what makes coffee so beneficial, Dr. Goldberg said, but the answer may lie in its antioxidant properties, which can prevent or delay cell damage. Coffee beans contain high amounts of antioxidants, said Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian at the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which can help break down cell-damaging free radicals. Over time, a buildup of free radicals can increase inflammation in the body, which can cause the formation of plaques linked to heart disease, she said. Dietitians therefore recommend consuming foods and beverages rich in antioxidants.
It’s also possible that coffee drinkers tend to make healthier choices in general. They might opt for a cold brew or a cup of drip coffee instead of a less healthy caffeine source, like an energy drink or soda, Dr. Goldberg added. “If you pound Mountain Dew or Coca-Cola or Red Bull or all those other drinks, they have tons more sugar, all the artificial stuff — compared to coffee, which is a generally unprocessed food.”