Coffee is likely to contribute far more health-giving anti- oxidants to the British diet than fruit and vegetables, new research suggests.

The evidence comes from the United States, where scientists measured the antioxidant content of more than 100 items, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, oils and beverages.

Coffee emerged as easily the biggest source of antioxidants, taking account of the amount per serving and level of consumption. Black tea came second, followed by bananas, dry beans and corn.

“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source – nothing else comes close,” said the leader of the study, Professor Joe Vinson, of Scranton University, Pennsylvania. Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appeared to provide similar antioxidant levels. The US findings probably reflect a similar trend in the UK, with 47 per cent of the population drinking about 70 million cups of coffee each day.

Antioxidants help to rid the body of harmful free radicals – destructive molecules that damage cells and DNA – and have been linked to a number of health benefits, including protection against heart disease and cancer.

Studies have associated coffee drinking with a reduced risk of liver and colon cancer, type two diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. But Prof Vinson urged moderation, recommending that people drink only one or two cups per day. He added: “Unfortunately, consumers are still not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which are better for you from an overall nutritional point of view.”

A spokesman for the British Coffee Association said: “This study reconfirms the fact that moderate coffee consumption of four to five cups a day not only is perfectly safe but may confer health benefits.”

By John Von Radowitz

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