Coffee is a warm friend in the winter, a gentle nudge towards alertness on an early morning and a toasted ode to having grown-up tastes. I love it.
But the health consequences?
It's great for you. It's terrible for you. It will make your baby fat. It will give you never-ending youth. It will give you malaria.
Evidence-based whiplash anyone?
A large, prospective observational cohort study out of Harvard was released in the journal Circulation this week and all of the news people spoke about it. As though it was gospel.
In a few words, a bunch of researchers mined through data collected from three large cohorts of people - both men and women - whose habits have been studied since 1976. The people selected are all nurses or other health professionals. They found that there was a sizable inverse relationship between mortality and coffee consumption, both decaf and regular.
Is this true? Maybe. That's what this study tells me. The problems with these kinds of studies is that they're biased by who signs up and how they record their coffee intake. It isn't people in white coats and goggles taking precise measurements of coffee fragments in the blood. It's a research assistant - at worst a hungover grad student and at best an overly-enthusiastic academic - calling Nurse Betty on the phone once every six months and asking her how much coffee she drinks. Ain't nothing can go wrong there.
Maybe coffee is just representative of something else that matters when it comes to living a long-ish life. Maybe people who drink more coffee tend to need to work longer hours which could mean that they earn more money. We know there is a positive relationship between income and health, to a point. So is coffee just a confounding variable and we are actually looking at income here? Not sure.
The interesting thing about this study is that it's the best we can do, methodologically speaking, to test something like this. Second, of course, to giving birth to a colony of humans barred from ever drinking coffee and another one with people that drink exactly the same amount of coffee every day, and probably a bunch of colonies with varying amounts of coffee exposure, and then control the exposures of each of those colonies and see who dies more, earlier. So, the longitudinal prospective cohort study is the best we have.
So drink your latte. Not your double-sweet vanilla whip latte with sprinkles because we know a few things for sure about processed sugar and it is nasty. But, like, a normal person latte is fine.
I have taken to coffee smoothies of late. I make a few shots of espresso using my Nespresso. I add water, ice, frozen berries, chocolate protein powder, some powder greens (I like the Arbonne ones), some branch chain amino acids and some Benefibre. It sounds like swamp water but it tastes SO GOOD.
So. Bottoms up.
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