"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.”

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bird-Friendly coffee

This is a Cooper's Hawk I saw this morning in a 2-hour birdwalk through NJ's Hatfield Swamp, in 20-degree weather! There were 5 of us hardy souls and while I saw no new Life Birds it was fun to get dramatic close-ups of the Cooper's above and a Red-tailed Hawk, and also saw a brown creeper, great blue heron - 19 species in all. We did some checking for owls. Walk leader Dave Hall's son had put up a bunch of wood duck nest boxes in the Swamp for his Boy Scout Eagle project in 1999, and apparently some owls use the boxes in the winter. An owl would have been a life bird for me! But we didn't find any, alas. Oh well, I got *eight* new life birds on my 6-hour marathon birding session at Manasquan Inlet last Saturday, so I guess my average for the week is still pretty good. :-)

And while I love birding, and love reading about nutrition, I have not given much thought to places where they might coincide. But on Monday night I went to DeKorte Park to hear a talk on bird migration by Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott Weidensaul. They also had copies of his books for sale there, so of course I had to buy one - Of a Feather - and got him to autograph it for me. (it's a lot cheaper at amazon, but not autographed!).

But in his talk Scott gave a list of things that people could do - simple things - that could help with bird migration. I was happy to see I already did quite a few of them - planted bird-friendly native plants in my yard, use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers in my yard, buy organic as much as possible, keep my cats indoors. But I admit it never occurred to me to look for toilet paper made from recycled paper. Nor did I think to look for bird-friendly coffee.

Coffee of course is a controversial subject. You can find statements like this:
A German experiment from November 2008 discovered that caffeine appears to play a role in endothelial repair. Other investigations have reported that, if anything, regular coffee use tends to reduce risk markers relating to endothelial health (E-selectin) and systemic inflammation (C-reactive protein) which have both been associated with cardiovascular disease. The research that demonstrates positive effects for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee could possibly be explained by other health promoting phytochemicals such as kahweol which is found in all forms of coffee.

A recent examination by the Center for American Indian Health Research at the University of Oklahoma looked for a correlation between coffee use and type-2 diabetes in a group of 1,141 men and women. The study volunteers were followed for an average of 7.6 years. Their ages ranged from 45-74 years old. The participants who drank the largest amount of coffee (a whopping 12 cups or more) demonstrated a 67% reduced risk of developing diabetes during the follow-up period. The authors of the investigation concluded that “a high level of coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of deterioration of glucose metabolism”.

And you can find contradictory evidence like:
Daily consumption of caffeine in coffee, tea or soft drinks increases blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes and may undermine efforts to control their disease, say scientists at Duke University Medical Center...The findings, appearing in the February issue of Diabetes Care, add more weight to a growing body of research suggesting that eliminating caffeine from the diet might be a good way to manage blood sugar levels.

Or you can find statements like this:
Daily use of coffee results in the secretion of more cortisol which increases the production of lactate. Studies so far suggest that high level of cortisol shrivel the division of the brain that is responsible for memory. High volume of this hormone affects your immune system and decreases your body’s power to resist infections. If you take more than 3 cups of coffee daily then it will result in the depletion of your adrenals. If the adrenal gland is over stimulated, it may result in fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, depression and a weakened immune system. Usually, caffeine stays in people’s system for about eight to thirty hours. The presence of caffeine in the system leads to the release of more glucose in to the blood stream followed by a stern fall in blood sugar. Coffee also provides more stress on your kidneys.

From everything I've read about adrenal fatigue and the adrenals, the two biggest drainers are excess sugar consumption and excess stress. Now, yes coffee is a stress, and the body does recognize all the stress the same (doesn't matter whether you're being chased by a lion, or you just got a divorce).

The fastest way to burn out the adrenals through stress is the emotional/mental stress. Because that can go on forever, or at-least long periods of time and in unlimited amounts.

With coffee, a certain amount of cortisol is released with the normal half-life. But with emotional/mental stress, you can consistently release large amounts of stress.

So if you really want to avoid adrenal fatigue, head in the direction of a positive mind-set, and get the sugar under control.
Wherever you go you can find pros and cons. Many of them. I've had stages of my life where I drank 3-4 cups of coffee a day. I've also gone for months where I eliminated coffee entirely. I certainly didn't feel any different in any of the cases. I never got "caffeine jitters" from drinking coffee. I never felt tired and unable to get going when I didn't have coffee. I enjoy the *taste* of coffee. I usually have one cup every morning. And I do it because I like the taste and I agree with some of the pros of coffee drinking. But I don't *need* it. I went on my 2-hour birdwalk in the freezing cold this morning without having had any coffee, or experiencing any need for coffee.

But I also listen to the cons, so do limit myself to that one cup daily. But now I have to think about making it be "bird friendly" coffee! To understand what this means go here. I have to look for shade-grown coffee.

Not only better for birds, but better for people, and for the biosphere in general:

In its natural environment, coffee most often grows in the shade. However, most cultivated coffee is produced on full-sun,monocropping plantations, as are most commercial crops, to maximize production per unit of land. This practice is, however, detrimental to the natural environment, since the natural habitats which existed prior to the establishment of the plantations are destroyed, and all non-Coffea flora and fauna are suppressed - often with chemical pesticides and herbicides.... In addition, shade-grown coffee is considered by some to be of higher quality than sun-grown varieties, as the cherries produced by the Coffea plants in the shade are not as large as commercial varieties; some believe this smaller cherry concentrates the flavors of the cherry into the seed (bean) itself.

Keep that in mind if you are a coffee drinker.

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