November 19, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013
Is my morning cup of coffee each day speeding up more than just my nervous system? Like say, my departure date from planet earth? I hope not because that would leave the world with far too many tea drinkers and they have always struck me as too shifty and calculating for their own good. Maybe it’s all that time on their hands they seem to have, brewing, steeping, stirring and lingering over their small cups of tea.
Of course, they don’t get to enjoy earthly pleasures like donuts and coffee. Donuts and tea? Please. Tea and crumpets are more like it and that just leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Or so I am told. Scones? Sounds like a made-up word to me meant for an ice-cream cone in the shape of the letter-S.
But I come here today to not be haughtily dismissive of tea drinkers (haughtily is a word they seem to enjoy using) but rather to take a wide-eyed (after at least 2 cups of Joe) look at my beverage of choice and try, once and for all to decide if my daily coffee habit is really bad for me (as I fear) or good for me (as I so fervently hope). First, a recent study on coffee consumption (and really, isn’t there always yet another “study” to um, digest?) seems to bring me and all my fellow coffee enthusiasts good news.
Dr. Rob Van Dam (whose friends never confuse him with Jean Claude Van Damme) an epidemiologist at Harvard University and the National University of Singapore, informs us that Coffee, since it is a bean from a plant contains yummy (my word) and healthy (his word) items like vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and flavonoids. That, it seems is his good news. On the other hand (curses to always having another hand) unfiltered coffee, especially those found in hearty coffee like Turkish and French Press brewed seems to raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of elevated heart rates excessively. This seems due to the caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) potency of this method of brewing the coffee bean.
Van Dam, the medical guy and not the martial arts guy, also qualifies this new finding with caution to not consume huge amounts of coffee. Sure. But just how much is “huge” amounts? Well, the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (their name rolls right off the tongue just like a sip of espresso, no?) recommends no more than 200-300 milligrams of coffee per day for adult drinkers. Since we, as Americans, have long given the unit of measure “finger” to the rest of the world, that translates to 2 seven ounce cups of coffee per day for us non-metric Yanks.
Now, as I take another sip of my more than 7 ounce cup of coffee I begin to be concerned. How about other studies, what do “they” tell us? A review of The Journal of American (Internal) Medicine research on the subject reveals the following general findings. A 2011 study suggests that drinking moderate (there’s that “M” word again) amounts of coffee reduces diabetes risk while another recent study found that women who drank coffee were 15% less depressed than those that did not and a study on Finland linked coffee drinking to reduced suicides.
More good news? Well, other studies have linked coffee consumption to lower rate of heart attacks, prostate and breast cancer and a greater chance to dunk a basket-ball like LeBron James. Okay, I made up that last one but a guy can dream can’t he?
Bad news? Well, not surprisingly, pregnant women who already seem like they can’t eat or drink virtually anything already should avoid ingesting “excessive” coffee since the fetus can’t properly metabolize the caffeine in coffee well and this can lead to a number of other health risks. Okay, well not to be purely self-centered here but I think I am not at risk for getting pregnant anytime soon, so what else do I and others like me need to know about their favorite mug of coffee?
Well, a 2013 study lead by Dr. Pieter A. Cohen found that excessive caffeine consumption and nervous system stimulation can lead to higher risk for things like hypokalema and rhabdomyolsis. Great. Now I will be done in by stuff I swear Dr. “Pete” is making up just to scare me to start steeping my own “Earl Grey.”
But before I cross that bridge made of tea-bags, I must consider the richness of my coffee history before I’d consider kicking the habit. So, the sheep herder Kaldi in Caffa Ethiopia and the story of how he noticed his sheep getting all jiggy with it after they ate coffee beans comes to mind. Or how the Turks in 1453 made the world’s first drink out of coffee beans. They even passed a law permitting divorce if a spouse didn’t provide enough coffee per day for the other spouse. Now that people is some serious coffee grounds for divorce. I think of the smuggling and even death over the early coffee traders. I relive how the Dutch smuggled the coffee plant out of Arabia and to Ceylon and the island of Java and then how those underhanded French smuggled coffee from the Dutch to Martinique.
I then imagine the euphoria that the inventor of the espresso machine the Italian Achilles Gaggia must have felt as he downed one “cappuccino” after the other shortly after World War II. Cappuccino I find out was named after the color of this new beverage reminded its early aficionados of the robes worn by the Capuchin Order of Monks.
Now, as I wake up a bit and smell the coffee I wonder, just what the world would be like if not for that momentous day in 1971 when Starbucks first opened its doors and cash registers to pricey coffee beverages in Seattle’s Pike Place Public Market? I shudder like Burl Ives in Rudolph is Coming to Town. So, I now come full circle. Is my daily coffee habit going to be the end of me?
I guess it depends on which study or rather, which parts of which studies are most applicable to me. I should probably consider cutting my “habit” down to the 200-300 milligrams a day. I’ll put my French Press on E-Bay (some poor uninformed caffeine-addict who hasn’t read my blog may buy it) and oh yes, make sure I drink from a porcelain cup or mug because that not only preserves warmth and taste of my coffee it reduces risk of toxin erosion.
Finally, just as I feel good about myself and my new coffee resolutions, I come across yet another study that informs me that coffee is actually made up of caffeine (a natural purine alkaloid), theobromine and theophylline and may come from 63 plant species around the world. Sometimes, I think, it’s good to be one of Kaldi’s sheep and just follow the rest of the coffee-swilling herd. Beats steeping tea in a hand-knit sweater-vest.