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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 07/15/2011

Another way coffee, tea may keep you healthy

Evidence that coffee and tea may be good for your health has been mounting in recent years, as it’s become apparent that the tasty brews may help protect against type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and other ills.

Now it looks as though these beverages, at least when consumed hot, might help keep the "superbug" MRSA at bay.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a pathogen that caused an estimated 278,000 illnesses and 6,500 deaths in 2005, according to a study published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

MRSA is particularly dangerous because, as its name suggests, it’s developed resistance to the antibiotic methicillin, one of our main lines of defense against such bacteria. About 2.5 percent of us carry MRSA in our noses all the time, the study says, often without its doing us any harm. Though some research has suggested that the nasal passages may provide MRSA an easy route to infect the body, the scientific data are conflicting on that point, the study says.

Still, finding a simple, safe, inexpensive and even pleasurable way to combat MRSA that doesn’t involve antibiotics (overuse of which poses the risk that bacteria will become resistant to them) would be a boon.

The study found that people who drank hot tea were about half as likely to have MRSA in their nasal passages than people who drank no hot tea. The same held for hot-coffee drinkers and for people who drank both beverages. There was no such association between likelihood of carrying MRSA in the nasal passages and drinking iced tea or soda. That finding, the study notes, undercuts the idea that caffeine might be the key to beverages’ anti-MRSA effects. The study notes that coffee and tea have been shown to have antimicrobial effects in other settings.

The study says further research is warranted before we enlist coffee and tea in the war against MRSA. In the meantime, I intend to continue enjoying my cups of joe with gusto — and with new appreciation for coffee’s potential power.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 07/15/2011

 
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