Coffee Consumption

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The pendulum swings back and forth on which foods (and drinks) are healthy and which are not. Coffee is scarcely these least of these, in largest part due to its high caffeine content. Claims that coffee increases the risk of heart disease are not new, or altogether disproved. But, setting aside that debate, among the positive findings is that regular coffee drinking reduces the risk of type II diabetes. It may, as at least one Japanese and one U.S. study determined, also reduce the risk of liver cancer.

Who's Drinking How Much Coffee?

In the later 1980s, the four top coffee-drinking western countries were Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. On rough average, Scandinavians consumed about 10 to 12 kilograms per year. Americans at the time drank about 4.5 kilograms per year. This, of course, was before the coffee bar rage swept North America. Today, of course, you find shops like Starbucks or Caribou or Cosi on what often seem like every other street corner. Interestingly, the figures on consumption haven't changed as much as you might think.

Industry studies put the number of coffee drinkers in the United States at about 100 million in 1999. They accounted for about $9 billion in both the retail and the food service sectors each year in the years studied. Bringing that down to the individual level translates to $165 per year spent on coffee. Still recovering from an emotional dependence on vanilla lattes, I can vouch for the fact that that figure refers to ordinary coffee drinks, not their gourmet cousins.

Back to the facts and statistics, however, the average 4.5 kilogram per year per capita still holds. Coffee drinkers--and just over half of America's adults qualify as such--average about three cups per day. About a quarter of the adult population drink coffee on an occasional basis. On a per capita basis, men drink more than women. Approximately 12 percent of U.S. coffee drinkers drink gourmet or specialty coffees.

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