Coffee has, up until recently, gotten a bum rap by the medical establishment
. The tendency has been to focus on caffeine as if that were the only substance in coffee--there are over 800 components, including many antioxidants
. Early theories held that coffee causes cancer and increases heart attacks and some early poorly done epidemiological studies that failed to control for smoking found such an association
. But this thinking was wrong. Unfortunately, it persists.
Almost all of the more recent better done studies show that coffee has lots of health benefits
. It is good for the liver, helps control diabetes, may help asthma, and may ward off Parkinson's disease. An area where there appears to be a paucity of good research is to compare types of coffee and brewing methods. Researchers have often compared green tea to black tea and have found that green tea contains more antioxidants. Coffee contains antioxidants as well, but I'd bet that freshly roasted espresso contains more antioxidants than drip brewed Folgers. It would be interesting to see researchers examine this. One wonders whether it could it even have something to do with the Mediterrean effect.
Finally, comparisons between coffee and cola are ridiculous. Both have caffeine, but there the similarity ends. Cola is filled with refined sugar (actually now high fructose corn syrup) and has no nutritional value. I'd much rather my kid drank coffee than Coke. Here is a link to an article that (toward the bottom) looks at the possible health benefits of coffee for children:
"In fact, no studies show that coffee in reasonable amounts is in any way harmful to children."