COMMENTARY | Dedicated coffee shop patrons, beware! New research from Harvard University finds drinking caffeinated coffee may increase your risk for developing glaucoma. The study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science on October 3, found drinking three or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily is associated with a 66-percent increased risk for developing a condition called exfoliation glaucoma.
So as I sit here writing this article while drinking a 9-ounce Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, should I be concerned? Not really.
I have three specific issues with this study:
The risk for developing exfoliation glaucoma jumped when the person drank three or more cups of coffee a day. A cup is defined as 8 ounces. I would have to drink at least two and a half 9-ounce Frappuccinos daily to truly increase my risk for glaucoma. This simply does not happen. I can't handle more than 16 ounces of any coffee drink in a day. And most of the time, if given the option, I drink decaffeinated coffee.
Other caffeinated foods like tea and chocolate did not show the same link to this rarer form of glaucoma. So who's the bad guy in this study? The caffeine? The coffee bean? Can I still eat my chocolate bars and just keep my coffee decaf? Clearly, more research needs to be done to determine the exact link between caffeinated coffee and exfoliation glaucoma.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, exfoliation glaucoma is more common in people of Scandinavian descent. I'm of Italian-Irish descent with no traces of Scandinavian blood in me.
However, I do have one concern. The increased risk for glaucoma was especially true for people (women in particular) who have a family history of glaucoma. Well, that's where I do raise an eyebrow. My father and his mother both have glaucoma. In general, I come from a family with poor eyesight, so I go for eye exams regularly, which include a glaucoma test. As of now, my eyes are OK, but I suppose keeping my coffee caffeine to a minimum can't hurt.
I can't say this new study will change my coffee habits. At least not without further research. But I guess I'll stick to my decaf iced cafe mochas just to be on the safe side.
J Budd is a registered nurse, former broadcast journalist, and iced cafe mocha enthusiast.