Coffee Will Heal You/Save You/Kill You. What's the "Grounds Truth" on Java Studies?

PHOTO: one of the stranger creatures ive found on my morning coffee. tiny elephant? crazy squirrel? kitty?

Flickr: Dret

We use the java bean regularly, whether it’s in a mocha choca frappe or a deeper darker espresso. We’ve had it with caramel and tried it with soy milk. Sometimes we even wash our faces with it or wear leggings filled with it (srsly, weightloss weirdness).

We have a love/hate relationship with coffee, and our skin and moods can attest to the highs and lows that blessed bean brings.

Problem is, all the web does is lie to us about coffee.

Over and over we get misinformation, conflicting data and so much nonsense that it makes us want to scream.

The latest: Coffee will kill you. Thanks!

For instance:

"Coffee will kill you if you drink more than four cups a day (and are under 55)."

Let’s decode that rather frightening headline as we wipe away our latte moustache. A recent report by the Mayo Clinic suggested that those who chug more than four cups a day are at higher risk of dying and exhibit a host of heart and lung issues.

However, the study also found that a lot of coffee drinkers are also smokers, which adds another element to this whole puzzle. The researchers couldn’t say WHY there were higher health risks in younger drinkers, suggesting that it was potentially due to caffeine stimulation and its related effects. “Coffee has the potential to stimulate the release of epinephrine, inhibit insulin activity, and increase blood pressure," said Xuemei Sui, a co-author on the study.

Doesn’t sound ideal, but if we take our time machine and go back a year, what do we find:

"Older Coffee drinkers have LOWER risk of death"

The National Institutes of Health reported a study that declared “coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.” The study looked at older adults between 50 and 71. Once again, there were a number of factoids that were vague and variable, such as how the coffee was prepared.

"The mechanism by which coffee protects against risk of death — if indeed the finding reflects a causal relationship — is not clear, because coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health," said Freedman. "The most studied compound is caffeine, although our findings were similar in those who reported the majority of their coffee intake to be caffeinated or decaffeinated."

So what have we learned?

Drink when old, not when young. Thanks internet!

Now, on to more coffee lies:

"Coffee from Italy/Colombia/Mexico/my local Portland-born homebrew barista is the best in the world."

The truth? Well, everyone likes to think their coffee is the greatest thing ever, and I’m all about hometown pride, but in reality, not so much. You can check out coffee reports thay rate the aroma, acidity and agtron (yes that is a thing) of different coffee beans worldwide and see experts who would swear by certain brands, but to be honest, that has very little to do with most of us.

Why? Well, despite your preference or allegiance to a certain type of coffee or a local store, the majority of people's taste buds fall into the "regular taste" category. One-quarter of people exist in the"supertaster" sphere, and these guys might genuinely be able to know the difference between multiple beans and brands. When the non-supertaster says that they love a particular bean, it’s more due to the association than the actual bean quality.

Ergo, there is no best coffee in the world for most people.

"Coffee will cure your hangover.. maybe?"

In 2011, Professor Michael Oshinsky concluded that the ideal cure for that dreaded thump was a cup of coffee and an aspirin. The world's drinkers high-fived each other for having already done that without the aid of science, and this became a traditional recommendation for students and office workers alike.

How did Oshinsky come to this conclusion? Well, caffeine apparently has a neutralizing effect on alcohol when coupled with aspirin... and fed to rats. We all know that rats are like the biggest coffee drinkers ever, right? Oshinksy believes this debunks the idea that coffee on a hangover is bad because it will further dehydrate you: “The rats in the study were fully hydrated and still developed hangover-like symptoms. Therefore, adding coffee to the mix may not dehydrate you as much as you think.”

I’m a bit lost why this couldn’t be tested, y’know, on actual humans, but OK.

Then we have this factoid:

"Drunk people who have coffee will still be drunk."

Another round of researchers and another bunch of rodents were given alcohol and coffee (think of the office fun-times). The mice exhibited fewer hangover signs after their concoction, but they also lacked any real cognitive ability, basically meaning they were still wasted. The danger of drinking coffee when drunk is the faux appearance of togetherness that could be overwhelmed when you actually to do something complex afterward, like driving home. For example, your friend lets you drive after an espresso and then you go hit a tree. Plus side, you might not get a hangover.

"However, coffee can cure your migraine."

This sounds really implausible. If coffee is dehydrating and bad for your lifespan, why have it with a migraine? Science here proves its worth. Migraines create intense ‘banding pressure’ on certain points of the head, and caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so if you chug it when your head is exploding, it actually constricts the blood vessels that are causing the agony, thus depressing the tension around your head.

Awesome.

Caffeine was also used by the military. Yup, this is true.

Coffee: A look through the lies

So considering everywhere gives you ridiculously conflicting information, where does the "grounds truth" lie? Well, it may simple, but this is a case of trusting your gut. Literally. If drinking a lot makes you feel sick, STOP. If it makes you productive and wired and happy, carry ON. Remember to eat at the same time, use a toothpaste that has stain remover and stay hydrated. All you need is a little bit of common sense and a big dose of web cynicism.

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