Category Archives: Caffeine

Health Watch: Say ‘Hello’ to Coffee and ‘Goodbye’ to Diabetes

For those of you who’ve been trying to find a legitimate excuse to cut down on your coffee intake for health reasons, hold that thought for a second and thank UCLA researchers who’ve given all of us another reason why we shouldn’t kick that caffeine habit quite yet.

For quite some time now, researchers have had an inkling that coffee has had a connection with preventing type 2 diabetes. And in fact they were right.

What researchers have found is that caffeine aficionados were least likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as the java works as a protective agent by increasing the plasma levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHGB). The SHGB protein regulates the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen which has been long been thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

As Science Daily reported, after Atsushi Goto, UCLA doctoral student in epidemiology, and Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Public Health and the David Geffen School, tested 359 new diabetes cases with 359 said to be healthy controls out of 40,000 women varying in both age and race, “they found women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee each day had significantly higher levels of SHBG than did non-drinkers and were 56 percent less likely to develop diabetes than were non-drinkers,” explained Mark Wheeler of the UC Newsroom.

“Early studies have consistently shown that an “inverse association” exists between coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes,” Liu said. “That is the greater the consumption the lesser the risk of diabetes. It was thought that coffee may improve the body’s tolerance to glucose by increasing metabolism or improving its tolerance to insulin.”

Liu adds, they now know that SHBG is indeed critical as an early target for assessing the risk and prevention of the onset of diabetes. They now know the protein can be influenced by dietary factors like coffee intake in affecting diabetes risk. The lower the levels of SHBG, the greater the risk beyond any known diabetes factor.

But diabetes prevention is only the beginning of the health benefits coffee may give us. In a number of other studies, one in particular published in the Wall Street Journal and referenced by Top News, coffee has been found to possess antimicrobial agents that aid in the prevention of tooth decay. Other studies have said it decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in women by no less than 24 percent, protects men from Parkinson’s disease while also increasing their metabolism and may also help the condition of short-term memory loss and is a helpful factor in aiding headaches.

So before you back away from that latte, just remember that one cup of espresso can provide you with loads of health benefits, so you might as well ask your barista for that double shot.

New! Everything but Espresso – Scott Rao

In follow-up to his seminal work on professional espresso preparation, The Professional Barista’s Handbook, Scott Rao takes on all the other forms of coffee brewing and gives them their day in the sun. Broken up into three main parts, and supported by a thorough reference bibliography for folks that want to read more, Everything but Espresso covers the following:

  • Part One: Coffee extraction, measurement and methods on improving flavor by changing the brewing parameters
  • Part Two: How to achieve optimal flavor via different brew methods (such as drip, pour over, press pot, steeping and vacuum pot)
  • Part Three: Proper water chemistry and bean storage

If you’re either an espresso aficionado who wants to spread their wings or someone who cherishes their old press pot, this book is the definitive guide to making the best possible brew at home.

Better Living Through Chemistry: Caffeine

We get so wrapped up in the cornucopia of flavors it offers that we sometimes forget that coffee is also a drug delivery device. Caffeine is widely consumed around the world and is the stimulant of choice for many folks in the morning to get their day going or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Like so many things in life these days, the geeks have taken the intake of caffeine to the limit and devised a guide on how to get the most out of it. This is a fun and fact-filled read that will teach you some tips on how to keep your caffeine use high and tight.

Top 50 Coffee Drinking Countries

If you’re expecting to head to Rwanda and sample some of their world-renowned coffee, you’ll most likely be sorely disappointed in the cup of coffee you end up with. This is true of many of the coffee producing countries of the world, who actually have a relatively small population of actual coffee drinkers. The majority of their coffee is exported around the world — and you’ll probably find a tastier cup in Finland than you will in Ethiopia.

At the end of April, Bloomberg reported (from Euromonitor) the most avid coffee drinking countries in the world, measured by the quantity consumed in liters per capita. We took that, put it in a table and assigned each country a general region, as well, so you can sort it and see which parts of the world are the biggest coffee connoisseurs.

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Health Watch: Caffeine & Cataracts

The caffeine contained in your daily dose of java may play a part in keeping your eyes in check. A recent study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that caffeine might provide protection against the lens damage that can lead to the formation of cataracts.

They engaged in two different studies:

The team studied the oxyradical effects in vitro by incubating mice lenses in medium exposed UVA in the presence of kynurenine with and without caffeine. In vivo studies were conducted in rats by incorporating caffeine with galactose in their diet. In both cases, caffeine was found to be effective in protecting the lens against damage. (Source)

Yet another reason to enjoy your morning cuppa — if you needed another one, that is.

A Different Kind of Buzz

Addiction can be a lonely place. Whether we hide our vices or not — stealing a secret cigarette while the wife isn’t looking, sipping a sly cocktail at the end of the bar by ourselves or knocking back a few shots of espresso despite our doctor’s orders — it  can sometimes feel isolating. But we should take some comfort in the fact that we are, in fact, not alone. At least, not in nature.

Joining the ranks of our friendly Russian drunk chimpanzee Rostov (who was recently sent to rehab to break his boozing and smoking ways) are our favorite little pollinators: Bees! A study conducted by the University of Haifa found that bees had a preference for nectar that included trace amounts of caffeine and/or nicotine in it. When we first ran across this story, we thought, ‘of course, coffee cherry flowers would have caffeine in them’ but we were surprised to learn that nicotine and caffeine chemicals are found in the flowers of many fruits — even grapefruit (which has some of the highest concentration around)!

Scientists created synthetic nectar (which is comprised of sugars) that was neutral, had caffeine or had nicotine and then let the bees loose. They were able to then track the bees’ preference for the nectar with the caffeine or nicotine over the neutral, sugar-only nectar. The assumption is that this evolutionary development on behalf of the flowers in question was to create an addictive relationship, thus spurring the bees to visit often and spread the pollen far and wide.

So there you have it — the next time you’re ruing your addiction to caffeine, know that you are in great company.

(And, while it’s not often we wish we were a talented illustrator, this story should have been accompanied by an illustration of a greasy looking bee with a five o’clock shadow, a cup of coffee and a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. If you are a talented illustrator, there’s a free bag of Velton’s Bonsai Blend in it for you if you can draft something and send it our way.)

Newswatch: Caffeine & Alcohol

Let’s face it: Life can be a little rough around the edges sometimes — and we’re not afraid to smooth out said edges by administering a well-crafted cocktail. We’ve written in the past about a delicious stout that incorporates espresso and about one of our favorite espresso and hazelnut-infused vodkas on the market, so you can imagine our concern when we started reading news last fall that the FDA was examining whether or not the combination of caffeine and alcohol was safe for public consumption.

In November of 2009, the FDA sent out requests to manufacturers who have been producing drinks that have both caffeine and alcohol in them, asking that the companies provide evidence that the combination can be safely ingested. Included in this investigation, however, were a few smaller breweries and distilleries that were incorporating coffee into their drinks.

With health agencies around the world examining the energy drink market because of the adverse impact it has had on the health of some populations (specifically college students), it’s no surprise that alcoholic beverages with an additive of caffeine might also come under scrutiny. But will the FDA’s inquiries lead to the discontinuation of the gourmet microbrews and distilled spirits that have a little kick in their step?

We followed up with PR rep Michael Herndon of the FDA to see where the investigation was at, and what type of impact — if any — the ruling may have on our favorite java stouts and coffee vodkas. According to him, none. “This FDA action is not directed at products that are flavored with coffee.  At this time, the FDA is focusing its attention on products in which caffeine has been intentionally added to alcoholic beverages by the manufacturers.” As of this writing, only 19 of the total 27 inquiries have received responses, and the next step is to review any scientific data on the subject. While there is no specific timeline in regard to when the FDA will make its final ruling on the subject, Herndon noted that it is a high priority at the agency.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Brain Cancer

A recent study by a group of South Korean researchers indicates that the amount of caffeine present in coffee and green tea may have a positive impact on the development and growth of brain cancer causing cells.

Collecting the data through unidentified animal testing, the researchers found that the caffeine equivalent of two to five cups of coffee or green tea per day suppressed the growth of inositol trisphosphate receptors IP3R), which are closely linked to the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor in humans, the glioblastoma. The researchers note that calcium plays a part in spreading these tumor cells, but the caffeine counteracts it.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Hepatitis C

A recent study published this month in the journal Hepatalogy indicates that a daily intake of about 308mg of caffeine (equal to what’s found in 2.25 cups of regular coffee) had a positive impact on liver fibrosis.

Based on behavioral questionnaires combined with the regular test results of 177 patients with liver disease, the study found that people with a lower level of the scarring that can lead to cirrhosis had a higher level of caffeine intake via coffee. But while the data suggests that coffee itself might have some kind of hand in it as well, the numbers of the study are low enough to question the reliability of the data, given that 71% of those studied were coffee drinkers. Further analysis is required to determine if caffeine therapy on its own is beneficial, or if there is an additional element present in coffee that also plays a part.

The Caffeine Poster

We’ve talked before about how much caffeine is in different forms of coffee preparation, and we’ve even covered the relative caloric intake of many drinks compared with food. But if you’re looking for something a little more visual-oriented, check out the Caffeine Poster created by Randy Krum over at Cool Infographics.

Now it’s easy to reference how much caffeine you’re taking in each day via different drinks — from different forms of coffee to the legendary Jolt soda. Plus, it has a couple of fun facts incorporated in it, such as the date of National Coffee Day (wait, isn’t that every day?!) and how much caffeine you have to ingest before you feel the, uh, love.