10 studies that made us think twice in 2013


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Coffee keeps Alzheimer’s at bay, popcorn makes us immune to advertising and drinking makes us live longer — these are just some of the studies covered this year by the media that have been anything but dull.

As we head into 2014, we rounded up some of 2013’s most thought-provoking studies and the lessons that can help us make smarter choices in the New Year.


1. So … coffee isn’t bad for you?

One moment it’s going to kill you, and the next it’s being credited for cutting your risk of getting liver cancer or Alzheimer’s. Go figure, right? Researchers from Italy found indications that as many as 3 cups of Joe a day can reduce the liver-cancer risk by — get this — more than 50%. As for the Alzheimer’s claim, researchers at the University of South Florida conducted a study on mice and found that an unidentified ingredient in coffee interacts with the caffeine, which could explain why daily coffee intake protects against the degenerative disease.

The lesson

Don’t run to the supermarket or the local coffee shop to panic-buy all the coffee; don’t hook yourself up to a Java IV; and don’t forget that 1 cup is not that bowl-sized mug you got at the duty-free shop after your trip to Colombia. One cup is 8 ounces. 

In the next few weeks, when coffee is back to killing you again, don’t feel compelled to give it up cold turkey, either — unless your doctor has specifically told you to bid farewell to the stuff, of course. If the articles you are reading seem to be sensationalizing the information they are disseminating, then read the actual studies and see what other scientists have to say. In fact, even if they seem to be reported in a level-headed manner, read the studies anyway.


2. Having that handful of nuts may extend your life

A study that analyzed data on nearly 120,000 people collected for a more than 30-year period and which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who eat a handful of nuts every day live longer than those who don’t eat them.

Senior author Charles S. Fuchs — director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School — said, “The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease — the major killer of people in America. But we also saw a significant reduction — 11% — in the risk of dying from cancer."

The lesson

If you already have heart disease or cancer, eating nuts is not going to cure you. And even although the study’s findings are encouraging, remember to consume them — and everything you eat and drink, for that matter — in moderation. Some people seem to think that if having a handful of something helps prevent you from getting some scary illness, then tripling that dosage means you won’t get it at all. Don’t make that mistake.