Thursday, May 21, 2009

A cup of Joe for 'Bo

I enjoy a good cup of green tea, but I enjoy coffee more. My mother thinks I drink too much of it, and I must admit I did, back before I realized that a venti included three shots of espresso. 

Consequently what I thought was two or three cups of coffee a day was the equivalent of six to nine cups. I eventually quit that habit when I started getting the jitters at the end of the day. But I was doing that for so long, it is truly amazing that Kushibo is not as wide as he is tall. (Kushibo is actually fairly slim for someone in the Gen-X cohort.)

Really, my mother is nagging me about coffee because I would nag her about aspartame consumption. She has no leg to stand on, so she has to lash out in some other way. But the truth is, as the Los Angeles Times sums up nicely for us, coffee is probably at worst a zero-effect substance or, at best, something that may actually enhance your health:
Coffee drinkers, rejoice! The heavenly brew, once deemed harmful to health, is turning out to be, if not quite a health food, at least a low-risk drink, and in many ways a beneficial one. It could protect against diabetes, liver cancer, cirrhosis and Parkinson's disease.

What happened? Lots of new research, and the recognition that older, negative studies often failed to tease apart the effects of coffee and those of smoking because so many coffee drinkers were also smokers.

"Coffee was seen as very unhealthy," said Rob van Dam, a coffee researcher and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Now we have a more balanced view. We're not telling people to drink it for health. But it is a good beverage choice."
From a public health perspective, the conflation and negation of the effects of coffee with those of cigarettes is the type of problem that one constantly has to constantly watch out for. 

At any rate, as the article explains, the various salutary effects come from different aspects of the coffee itself. In other words, it might be the caffeine (in which case drinking tea can have a similar effect) or it might be the coffee (in which case drinking decaffeinated would do the trick). 

Of course, if you're drinking something for the health benefits alone, probably nothing beats green tea or plain old water. And if you start calorie-loading that coffee with all kinds of sugar-infused crap, you're kinda defeating the purpose. Try honey instead of table sugar, for starters. 

[above: drug delivery device]


  1. I, too, am a big fan of the bean. I cut down to one cup of coffee in the morning. But it is a strong cup: 5 tablespoons dripped in a coffee cone. I read a study that said that a high dose of caffeine makes the brain temporarily sharper. Works for me.

  2. Perhaps both you AND your grandmother should lay off each other about your 'chemical habits'.

    Also check out the wikipedia entry on aspartame for links to various reports on its safety.

  3. Scott wrote:
    Perhaps both you AND your grandmother should lay off each other about your 'chemical habits'.

    Also check out the wikipedia entry on aspartame for links to various reports on its safety

    I will be the first to admit that the official paper trail against aspartame is spotty at best. It is dismaying that so many of the web sites against it seem as if they come from tinfoil hat wearers.

    But there are reputable sources that warn of potential problems with some groups of people who consume aspartame. WebMD cites aspartame and other artificial sweeteners as a trigger of headaches and migraines, for example (and to be fair, so is caffeine for some people).

    I want to point out that I am not suspicious of aspartame because I read stuff condemning it; rather, I started looking up problems related to aspartame because I experienced noticeable reactions that I could easily isolate to consumption of sodas containing aspartame, but not to sodas containing sucralose.

    I got queasy and sometimes light-headed. The consumption of these beverages was not just a diuretic, but I actually felt parched, with dry lips and mouth after consuming them.

    My mother (not my grandmother) has had health emergencies related to dehydration, so if her physical makeup is at all similar to mine, then aspartame would be best avoided.

    The problem is that scientific testing across a general population does not always yield results that demonstrate a problem or lack of problem among a smaller percentage of people. It may well be that 95% of all people can consume aspartame with no ill effects, but the 5% who are on average more sensitive could be made sick from it.

    Not everyone reacts the same way. When I drink or even get drunk — which is a rare occurrence, but does occasionally happen — I am a happy drunk, laughing at almost everything. On the other hand, I have relatives who are angry and violent when they drink. Different reactions to the same chemical.

    As a general guidelines, the more natural your food is, the better. Fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, etc., are probably better for you. Aspartame is probably best avoided, at least for me.


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