Greek Coffee Prolongs Life

by Hiyaguha Cohen
Daily Health Tip ImageIt’s always thrilling when new research discovers that a favorite treat isn’t poison, after all. We’ve learned that chocolate may actually benefit body and soul, red wine is a must-have for a healthy heart, and coffee delivers a plethora of health advantages along with the caffeine buzz. And now, there’s one more pro-coffee study to be pleased about. Investigators from the University of Athens have discovered that coffee can make you live a lot longer, but there’s a catch. The coffee has to be boiled, Greek-style.
The researchers made the discovery while investigating why residents from the Greek island of Ikaria live longer than practically anyone else in the world. The chances of living past the age of 90 on Ikaria beat the rest of Europe by 10 times. Only 0.1 percent of Europeans survive past the 90-year mark, but on Ikaria, a full one percent live that long. Those are still not great odds, but certainly they’re far better than in Lithuania or Italy or Great Britain. Not only that, but the Ikarian old timers live out their 90s in comparatively good health.
After controlling for other factors, the researchers discovered that the one thing that set the Ikarians apart is their habit of drinking a cup of Greek coffee every day. It turns out that 87 percent of the study participants–a total of 142 individuals over the age of 65–drink a daily cup of Greek coffee. Greek coffee, it seems, is a far cry from Starbuck’s latte. The brew has to be boiled for a while in a special pot that makes the steam rise to the top. The subjects who drank other types of coffee didn’t get the longevity boost.
The Greek coffee, it seems, improves endothelial function. Endothelial cells line the inside of blood vessels and help to control inflammation, blood pressure, clotting, and the transit of materials and white blood cells into and out of the system. Better endothelial function, then, means a better likelihood of maximizing the health potential of all those functions. And the subjects who drank Greek coffee had better endothelial function than the other subjects, and that held true even among subjects who had high blood pressure.
If you want to reap the benefits of Greek coffee yourself, you can either hop a plane to Ikaria or concoct your own brew at home. You need to find Greek coffee, which is very finely ground, and then locate a special Greek coffee pot, known as a briki. It’s a tall, narrow thing that forces foam to form at the top. The secret, it seems, is to boil the elixir long enough for the foam to get thick. The coffee is not strained, so the cup begins with the grounds floating on top, and then they slowly settle to the bottom.
Merely brewing the perfect cup may not be enough to impart the medicinal effects, though. You also may need to sip the brew Icarian style in order to reap the medicinal effects. Unlike the typical grab-a-cup-and-gulp approach so common in the US, the Greek coffee ritual involves extremely slow sipping, with one cup typically lasting a few hours.
You may wonder if there’s something about living in a culture that promotes two-hour coffee breaks that contributes to the longevity factor, and that’s certainly a possibility. On the other hand, the coffee itself just may possess some magic.
Study director Dr. Gerasismos Siasos says, “Boiled Greek type of coffee, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, seems to gather benefits compared to other coffee beverages.” The research did not contain a comparison of the nutrients in Greek coffee compared to other blends, but perhaps boiling it and capturing the steam enhances the delivery of those antioxidants and polyphenols.
That said, even regular coffee seems to have benefits. A few years ago we reported research indicating that coffee offers protection against stroke. Other recent research concludes that coffee protects against Type II Diabetes, irregular heart rhythm, Alzheimer’s Disease, respiratory disease, and liver cancer. And another study, this one of 400,000 individuals, also found that those who drank a few cups of coffee daily got a 10 percent longevity boost.

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