Category Archives: Health

Health Watch: Caffeine & Asthma

Researchers at Indiana University have found that caffeine is as effective as an albuterol inhaler in preventing exercise induced asthma (EIA). When they combined the use of both caffeine and the inhaler, however, no additional benefits were noted.

A dosage equivalent to the amount of 9mg of caffeine per kilogram of weight was found to ease the symptoms of EIA in a manner similar to inhalers, and smaller amounts (3mg – 6mg/per kilogram) reduced the coughing, wheezing and other EIA symptoms, while not eradicating them completely.

The study’s subjects ingested differing amounts of caffeine one hour prior to running on a treadmill and their pulmonary condition was monitored 15 minutes before they started to run and then at different intervals afterward. The differing dosages were deemed to provide varying levels of relief from the symptoms, with 9mg functioning on par with the performance of an inhaler.

This study is part of a larger analysis of nutritional modifications that can be made in place of the corticosteroid used to alleviate EIA on a long-term basis. Other beneficial dietary habits found to reduce the severity of EIA include increasing fish oil and antioxidant intake while reducing salt. Researchers are interested in finding other methods for controlling or eliminating EIA without using pharmaceuticals because of the concern over long-term use and the decrease in efficacy after using the medications for prolonged periods.

Health Watch: Coffee & Liver Disease

Good news for all you coffee lovers out there:multiple studies indicate coffee has liver protective benefits.

Dr. Sanjiv Chopra regularly quizzes his patients about their coffee intake and, if it’s not contraindicated due to other conditions, he recommends they incorporate about 2 cups of coffee per day as a preventative therapy. The evidence which swayed Dr. Chopra’s practice includes:

  • People who drink 2 cups of coffee each day had a 50% reduction in hospitalization and mortality from chronic liver disease
  • Two cups of coffee per day decreases the incidence of primary liver cancer by 43%
  • 1 cup of coffee per day can equal a 20% reduction in their risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver — and two cups will reduce that risk by 40%

Similar effects weren’t found in tea or decaf coffee, so the metabolic cause of this protective behavior is still being studied. And no, this doesn’t give you license to down numerous coffee-and-alcohol bombs, seemingly yet another example of the sage advice to do everything in moderation.

Health Watch: Coffee & Strokes

A recent analysis of the much-lauded Nurses Health Study (which followed over 80,000 US women for nearly 25 years to document their lifestyles and health conditions) found a preliminary correlation between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of stroke.

Performed by members of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, the analytical study found that women who lived a healthy lifestyle (particularly, non-smokers) and drank 4 or more cups of coffee each day had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Since it tracked the intake of several types of beverages that contained caffeine such as tea and sodas, the study was able to focus in on the effect of drinking coffee itself, meaning that the benefit is likely not sourced in caffeine but another molecular attribute unique to coffee.

Since the study is just out and will no doubt go through further analysis, it opens up an interesting discussion around diet and behavior — namely, do women who drink coffee at this level share anything else in common, specifically in regard to physical activity? The study authors are careful to note that this is just the first stage of analysis and that further research will be done in an attempt to determine the exact source of the benefit.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Little Green Men

A few weeks ago, the coffee news world was inundated by newspaper and blog reports regarding a study that stipulated the discovery of a cause-effect relationship between high caffeine intake and the possibility of experiencing hallucinations. When we read through the study, however, we felt it to be lacking any truly cause-and-effect data and it seemed the sample group was too small and specific to imply any accurate general population claims.

And we’re not the only ones! One of our favorite study assessment sites, The British Medical Journal came to the same conclusions — and many more — regarding this study’s accuracy and data collection process. If you were confused or alarmed by the recent news, reviewing the study is well worth the read.

So, we’re not saying that you won’t hallucinate if you drink 15 cups of coffee in a 24 hour period, but we do think your daily java habit is highly unlikely to inspire deep conversations with an imaginary Marvin the Martian.

Caffeine: The Dirty Truth

Will that ink black cup of coffee really get you on the straight and narrow after you’ve seen the bottom of a few too many shots of Patron? Or is your daily cup of joe really dehydrating you while perking you up?

WebMD examined 8 different common beliefs about caffeine and compared them against available studies to determine if they were fact or fiction. If you’re wondering if you’re working under any misconceptions about the brew, check out their opinions.

Oh, and that sobering up bit? Sorry…no:
Actually, research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up. For example, people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they’re OK behind the wheel. But the truth is reaction time and judgment are still impaired. College kids who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to have car accidents.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Skin Cancer

Sun exposure and skin damage may not be a concern for those of us in more northern climes right now, but if you’re wintering in Rio or snowbirding in Santa Fe, you might be interested in this interesting study on the positive effects caffeine may have on post-sun exposure skin.

Based on a study conducted a few years ago that indicated women who drank more than 6 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a lower incidence of skin cancer than those who drank less, researchers at the University of Washington exposed mice to UV rays and then rubbed them down with a caffeine solution.

The result? Well, preliminarily, it appears that the mice who received the caffeine solution on their skin had a lower incidence of damaged skin cells than the mice that did not and they’re hypothesizing that the caffeine helps the body eliminate the damaged cells more easily.

While more testing is needed to determine how caffeine can help with skin cancer prevention, you might think about adding a little extra protection to your sunblock by cooling off with an iced latte while you’re relaxing on the beach.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Training

Are you a cyclist looking for a quicker way to regain your energy stores after a long distance ride? Well, this interesting study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that caffeine has a significant positive impact on helping you to rehab more quickly after a long ride. The catch? You have to drink a lot of it — which may not be a negative thing for us caffeine maniacs.

At the School of Exercise and Sport Science in the University of Sydney, researchers found that study participants that drank caffeine-supplemented high-carb drinks after long rides restored much more of their glycogen stores (which gives the primary energy for endurance activities) when compared with participants who drank just a regular high-carb drink.

Health Watch: Aluminum Boilers & Alzheimers

One of the more controversial topics within the discussion of Alzheimer’s is whether or not aluminum has a causal relationship to the development of the disease. Since the first study in the 1960’s that found higher concentrations of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s than in the brains of people without the disease, scientist have been exploring the influences and attempting to correlate the two, with contradictory results. To this day, there is not conclusive evidence one way or the other, and the medical community is still very uncertain about whether or not the aluminum found at the center of the plaques which they believe to be the cause of the disease are the cause of the plaques or simply a harmless secondary association.

What does a discussion of neuroscience and disease have to do with coffee? Well, many people are concerned about the uncertain and contradictory information on this topic — one that might be close to home to any of you with an espresso machine or stovetop espresso brewer with an aluminum boiler. Since aluminum is part of the earth’s crust and used in tons of products, from toothpastes to antacids to cookware, it’s difficult to avoid it altogether. But the amount of aluminum that might leach into your espresso during the brewing process is relatively minimal, if any, than you would intake normally, so it’s likely not much of a concern.

While the jury is still out on whether or not aluminum is a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s, or just coincidentally happens to be along for the ride, you’re probably pretty safe to continue enjoying your delicious espresso — aluminum boiler or not.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy

Two universities in the UK have determined that excessive amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can impact the weight of the child as it’s developing, putting some babies at risk of a low birth weight.

What do we mean by excessive? Well, the study found that the babies of mothers who drank the equivalent of 3 or more cups of coffee each day tracked to a lower weight during each trimester of development. A low birth rate has been linked to health issues such as diabetes or heart disease later in life, so it’s important that a baby is born within the healthy range.

While the study has confirmed a link between caffeine and fetal development issues, scientists don’t think this should inspire pregnant mothers to abstain from all caffeine intake. Other health benefits still exist and a mother limiting her coffee to 1 cup per day should have no concern.

To Milk or Not to Milk

American coffee drinkers are often looked down upon because of their proclivity for adulterating their coffee drinks with a healthy dose of milk. Sometimes attributed to the fact that the coffee itself is inferior to coffee you might find in, say, Italy, the practice actually extends throughout northern Europe as well.

So why do you find heavily dairy-dependent drinks in France, Austria or Switzerland and virtually  none in Italy or Turkey? It might not actually be due to the coffee itself, but more related to evolutionary genetics.

It has been measured that lactose intolerance is high among Mediterranean peoples, specifically Italians, who have centered most of their dairy intake around mature cheeses — a process which virtually removes the offending sugar, lactose. At birth and through the first years of our life, we produce an enzyme called lactase, which helps break down and metabolize this sugar in our digestive system. Theoretically, through sustained non-human milk drinking well into adulthood generation after generation, a genetic mutation developed which resulted in the continued production of lactase as adults. There are several different regions around the world that exhibit this type of mutation, and each of them have documented cultural drivers that would have required them to ingest raw or unprocessed non-human milk as an important part of their caloric intake as adults.

If a latte or cafe au lait is your caffeinated drink of choice, don’t let anyone make you think your preference is the result of an undeveloped palette. Your taste may instead be the result of thousands of years of evolution, so drink up!