"The researches of so many eminent scientific men have thrown so much darkness upon the subject that if they continue their researches we shall soon know nothing."

- Artemus Ward

“If you aren’t confused about health and nutrition, then you haven’t studied it long enough or deeply enough.”

- Matt Stone

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Caffeine or not Caffeine?

That is the question. I have to admit I adore the taste of coffee. But I never really got into the whole caffeine "buzz". I'm just as happy with a good cup of brewed decaf because I still get the taste I like. Yes, I know decaf is not totally caffeine free so it I were trying to kick it utterly I'd have to give up even decaf - not to mention chocolate, black teas ... eeek.

But what is the status of caffeine? The three respected authors of the recently published The New Atkins for the New You say:

Caffeine also gently assists the body in burning fat ... Moderate caffeine intake is actually associated with improved long-term health and regulation of body weight.

Dr. Briffa has a recent post on his blog that states things like:

Coffee, despite its not-so-healthy reputation, has been quite consistently linked in the scientific literature with benefits for health including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. See here,here, here, and here.

But warns:

While the research regarding the effects of coffee on health is voluminous, the great majority of it comes in the form of so-called epidemiological evidence. Such studies can identify associations between things, but that’s about all.

And then comments on a recent study:

I was therefore interested to read a study published in the April edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which looked at the effect of coffee-drinking on a variety of biochemical surrogate markers for disease [1]. A group of coffee drinkers were asked to abstain from drinking coffee for a month. The following month they were asked to drink four cups of coffee a day (a total of 600 mls of coffee a day). The month following this they were instructed to drink 8 cups of coffee a day.

Compared to drinking no coffee, drinking 8 cups a day was associated with significantly reduced levels of inflammatory markers (interleukin-18 and 8-isoprostane), as well as significantly raised levels of adiponectin (a hormone is secreted by fat cells, and has been shown to have generally beneficial effects on the body’s physiology including an anti-inflammatory effect). These effects may be relevant not just to cardiovascular disease, but diabetes too. The authors of this study point out that inflammation is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

For what it’s worth, the higher coffee consumption was also associated with lower ratios of LDL to HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B to apolipoprotein A1. These changes in the lipid levels in the blood would generally be taken as evidence of reduced cardiovascular disease risk.

Dr. Michael Eades finds:

I can still say that there are many, many studies out there indicating that coffee has a protective effect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. So I highly recommend it. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying that if we could have a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of coffee I predict that coffee would be much more protective against heart disease than the statins.
Yet on the other side of the coin:

Mark Sisson, at "Mark's Daily Apple" says:

And, apparently, some of us are “slow caffeine metabolizers” (who knew?). Being part of this crowd and partaking of caffeine, some research shows, puts us at increased risk for non-fatal heart attacks. Caffeine has been shown to also raise blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

And Dr. Eades also cautions:

No one likes coffee more than I. But when I want to pick up my weight loss after I’ve gone off the wagon for a while, I cut back on my coffee. Why? Because caffeine is metabolized in the liver just like...drugs. It also consumes some of the liver’s capacity. I switch to decaf for a few days whenever I’m getting back on the straight and narrow.

The iconoclastic Matt Sone claims:
The second pillar of metabolic ruin is habitual usage of substances which overactivate endocrine glands and neurotransmitters – better known as “drugs.” These include everything from prescription medications, most of which have a direct impact upon the biochemical system in some way, to recreational drugs, to “street drugs” such as artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, alcohol, and caffeine – all of which are recognized to be highly addictive precisely because they are stimulating in ways that normal foods are not.
Lots of other stuff out there, both highly pro and highly con. So what's a body to do? I certainly don't want to become a "True Believer" on the issue, as described by Tom Naughton, from a book by Eric Hoffer, in Tom's recent blog post.

Tom quotes from Hoffer's book:
It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger, nor disheartened by obstacles, nor baffled by contradictions, because he denies their existence.
Of course Hoffer equates True Believers with fanatacism, and I certainly don't feel I am fanatic about anything, but I don't want to get wedded to my own beliefs either - not where health and nutrition are concerned! So for now I sit on the fence, and have a cup of real coffee about 2-3 times a week, and a cup or two of decaf on other days. I love it with either heavy cream or coconut oil added to it, and am just as happy to have it black. But one way I cannot *stand* coffee is with added milk. And skim milk? Might as well pour it right down the drain, LOL. If no heavy cream or coconut oil is available I'll have mine black please, and no sweeteners!

Anyway, in honor of this topic I will close with a recipe of mine. :-)

Coffee Jello

- 1 cup HOT brewed coffee or decaf (your choice)
- 2 packets of truvia (or sweetener of your choice to taste)
- one package Knox unflavored gelatin
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream

Pour the gelatin over the cold water in a small cup and allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour the coffee into a larger bowl. Then add the cold water/gelatin mixture and stir for several minutes until the gelatin has dissolved. Then add the heavy cream and stir.

Pour into four dessert dishes and chill until set. Good served with a dash of whipped cream on top, and gets you some gelatin, without the icky stuff that commercial Jello has in it. Note that you can decrease the heavy cream and increase the water for less of a carb hit.

About 1g of carbs per serving. Makes 4 servings.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely on the "no caffeine" side of things. I think adrenal stimulation and adrenal fatigue are two major causes of poor health (including obesity, but not limited to that) that don't get enough attention.

    Anyone who drives their adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion will need caffeine however to say alert and remotely "normal." I believe that's the case for Dr. Eades, since a high protein diet is hell on the adrenal glands long term. It was the case for me, back when I did that kind of silliness. Getting some good healthy carbs (and sufficient rest and calories) back into my diet has killed my need for caffeine of all kinds.

    I still like the taste of coffee too, but I can't handle the caffeine any more now that my adrenals are healed up. One decaf latte a week is about all I can handle.