I read an article the other day that made me think of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper. In the movie, Woody has been cryogenically frozen and is thawed out many years later. Among the many consequences of this time warp is that he discovers scientists have changed their views on the dangers of many products he had been told to stay away from, or use in extreme moderation, in his former life. The following is a brief excerpt:
Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called “wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.
Well, the article I refer to has to do with coffee – or as I refer to it “the Elixir of the Gods.” The first thing I do each morning is get that cup of coffee. I used to have a coffee pot timed to be ready by 5:30 am and I would not get out of bed, no matter how early I awoke, until I knew that pot was ready. We have now moved on to a one-cupper machine which means that I have to turn it on, wait for it to warm up, and that wait for the cup to be ready. This is often an extremely stressful event. The cups continue to be poured throughout the day – usually stopping by 4:00 or so. People warned me about my coffee “habit” but I held fast.
You can understand my excitement when I read in the Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat newsletter:
“Remember when people (and their doctors) used to worry that coffee would harm their hearts, give them ulcers, and make them overly nervous? In excess, coffee, and more particularly, caffeine, can cause problems. But the fretting about two or three cups a day, or even more, is fading as study results suggestive of health benefits from coffee keep on coming in. Coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of depression among women, a lower risk of lethal prostate cancer among men, and a lower risk of stroke among men and women. Earlier research also shows possible (it’s not a done deal) protective effects against everything from Parkinson’s disease to diabetes to some types of cancer.
Coffee contains literally a thousand different substances, and some of the lesser lights are thought to be responsible for healthful effects in other parts of the body. Some studies show caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee as having the same effect, which suggests that something else in coffee is involved.
Caffeine probably has multiple targets in the brain, but the main one seems to be adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a brain chemical that dampens brain activity. By hogging adenosine’s receptors, caffeine sets off a chain of events that affects the activity of dopamine, another important brain chemical, and the areas of the brain involved in arousal, pleasure, and thinking. Outside the brain, caffeine can be a performance enhancer, boosting the strength of muscle contraction and offsetting some of the physiological and psychological effects of physical exertion.”
Statistics show that per capita consumption of coffee has decreased from 26.7 gallons in 1980 to 23.3 gallons in 2009 (latest available), even while coffee shops continue to proliferate.
I admit that I have removed the negative effects mentioned in the article so that my wife and D3 staff stop giving me a hard time. Let’s stick with the brain arousal and muscle strengthening. I need all the help I can get.