Coffee as cure-all

Good news for caffeine addicts: coffee is good for you. According to a new study by a team led by Dr Ernest Abel of Detroit, drinking large amounts of the stuff can cut the risk of developing skin cancer by up to a third. The only drawback is that you need at least six cups a day - and none of that wimpish decaff either. So you'll probably end up a twitching, paranoid, insomniac wreck.

This is just the latest of many studies to big up caffeine as some sort of wonder-drug. Earlier tests have shown it to cut the risk of colon cancer, Parkinson's disease and type-two diabetes. It's even been suggested that it could improve digestion, although that's the opposite of my experience. Oh well. It keeps me blogging on, at least.

All these findings would have been useful to Sweden's 18th century king Gustav III, who was so convinced that coffee was poisonous that he sentenced a convicted murderer to drink a large cup every day until it killed him. As a control, a second condemned man was forced to drink tea. The king appointed two doctors to carry out the experiment. Needless to say, both died before either prisoner; as did the king, who was assassinated. The coffee-drinker lasted longest, by the way, although the tea-drinker made it to the very respectable (especially then) age of 83.


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