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Is Coffee Good For You? Let’s Find Out The Truth
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Hey, welcome to Episode 44, I believe, in the Super Nutrition Academy Health Class. I’m Yuri Elkaim. Today I’ve got some really cool stuff to bring to you with respect to coffee. I was doing some reading on CBC Health News recently, and I came across, surprisingly, a really good article. The reason I really enjoyed this was because the reporter who was writing the article was very inquisitive about the nature of science and the nature of how studies are released and the whole media frenzy that surrounds every single published journal study.
We’re going to talk about some interesting stuff about coffee. We’ll look at whether it’s really good or bad, what this latest study showed; we’ll look at a lot of the oversights with respect to the scientific community when they look at coffee and caffeine consumption. When we think about is coffee good for you or is it bad for your health, we typically think about okay, well, it’s bad for you health in the sense that it might promote cancer, it might promote heart disease, it might promote diabetes or whatever it is, but we don’t consider its effect on energy levels.
If you think about coffee being good or bad for you, a lot of people drink coffee because they think it’s going to give them energy, but we’ll investigate what really happens with coffee and caffeine consumption a little bit later in this episode.
Let’s first of all look at the brilliance of this article. I want to start off by reading a part of it which talks about how medical journals and research institutions work to get their scientific papers to appear in the news, because that’s really what it’s all about. It’s like anything else; each journal is like a product that they’re trying to push to the market.
According to Kelly Crowe, who’s the reporter of this article, who did a great job, this is what she said. I quote: “This is how it works. Science and medical reporters are given special acts as to Web sites that give advance notice of upcoming research. There are dizzying lists of dozens of scientific papers from hundreds of journals, volumes of new research that is published every single day. There are armies of helpful public-relations people who arrange interviews with the scientists so we can all be ready for the moment when the embargo lifts. The embargo is a strict deadline enforced by the threat of future exclusion, and reporters who mistakenly break the embargo can be punished for years by the offended journal, which will refuse all access to future papers. This fear of embargo breaking keeps the international media in line.”
How about that? That’s essentially how it works. Researchers are given priority and kind of preview access to coming research, but they’re told not to leak the story until a specific time. That’s why if you watch the news, which I don’t; you’ll probably notice the same story tends to appear across several different news channels. That’s because they say, “Okay, at five o’clock tonight, you are now allowed to release this information to the public.” They essentially create this massive product-launch type of frenzy about their news release. With this one about coffee, there were five hundred headlines that appeared online and within the media within 24 hours of this embargo lifting on coffee.
This one was a study done back in 2012, so it’s a little bit dated but it’s nonetheless really, really relevant. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and based on the fact that it was somewhat controversial, you saw headlines like “Coffee Drinkers May Live Longer,” which was in The New York Times; “Coffee Drinkers Have Lower Risk of Overall Death Study Shows,” which was on ABC News; and “Coffee Drinkers Live Longer Big Study Finds,” in the Vancouver Sun.
What’s interesting about this study is that, as with a lot of headlines, there’s a lot of hype. It’s all about getting eyeballs, getting people to click, to read these particular pieces of news. Honestly, I’ll be totally transparent with you: The headlines for our SNA Health Class podcast are no different, because if I just put a boring headline, like “Episode 44,” that’s not very compelling to want to listen to it or read it, so we have to compel our audience, to give them something that is of interest to them in a compelling way that they actually want to learn more about it. That’s essentially what the news does as well, although the news and media go a little bit further in terms of, like, “Man shot in the face. Find out more at six o’clock tonight,” stuff like that.
Anyways, this study, I’m just going to give you some of the findings. I’m sifting through there. What they did is, they essentially just surveyed 500,000 American seniors who were older than 50, who were relatively healthy, so they didn’t have cancer, heart disease, or anything like that before the study, and they just asked them how much coffee they consumed. However, they didn’t really distinguish between is this caffeinated or decaf? Is this espresso or is this drip coffee? They didn’t make any of those kinds of distinctions.
And they also didn’t account for the fact that it was a one-time question. It wasn’t like, “Two years ago, did you drink the amount?” or “Did you just start drinking like this?” or “Have your habits changed?” None of that was taken into account, which really confounds the findings, at least for me. What they found was that, based on the research and presented in this study, they found that there was a 10 percent lower risk of death in men who drank two cups or more of coffee per day compared to men who didn’t drink coffee. And then for women, that was a 15 percent lower risk of death.
If you were to see those results by itself, you’d be like, “I’m going to drink two more cups of coffee a day because it’s going to decrease my risk of death by ten or fifteen percent.” Well, that’s not necessarily the whole story because there are a couple confounding variables that they didn’t really take into account, as I mentioned they didn’t take into account the fact that these people may have already been relatively healthy, and when the researchers corrected for things like smoking, drinking, all that kind of stuff, there was, basically what the findings showed when all those other lifestyle, poor lifestyle decisions were accounted for was essentially that coffee doesn’t hurt your health.
That’s essentially; you could boil the study down to: Coffee doesn’t hurt your health. That’s very different than saying coffee makes you live longer, which is essentially what a lot of these types of findings were kind of thrown out there and saying.
I wanted to bring this up because, for whatever reason, the most trusted—there was a survey done a while ago, and I think it was the most trusted professions. In North America, in the Western world, the most trusted professional is a doctor. One of the least trusted is a politician; no surprise. What’s funny is that we impart so much trust on doctors, and as an extension of that, we impart so much trust in scientifical research, but the reality is that so much of the research is ridiculous nonsense.
It’s supported by companies who have a vested interest in the results of this study, which, in and of itself, makes the study less objective because anyone can fudge the results if they wanted to. And a lot of the research that’s done is really meaningless and useless. We’ve talked about this before.
But the funny thing is that I’m a big nerd. I like to understand where’s the scientific validity about this stuff. But at the same time, I’m also very open-minded, and we talked about this in the magic versus science episode, where just because something’s not discussed in the scientific community does not mean it doesn’t exist and doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Let me give you an example of this, and we’ll just kind of switch gears. In this study they talked about how coffee doesn’t hurt your health in the sense that it doesn’t increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and stuff like that. However, they don’t talk about, does coffee hurt your adrenal glands.
And what’s interesting is that if you go to any medical doctor—well, maybe not anyone, but most medical doctors—and you bring up the topic of adrenal fatigue or adrenal insufficiency, they would probably tell you, “Oh, there’s no validity about that type of topic. We don’t use that in the medical community.”
And just to show you how true that is, if you go to Google Scholar, which is a search engine for scholarly journals, and you type in “coffee and adrenal fatigue” or “adrenal fatigue,” you will find few, if any, scientific journals that discuss adrenal fatigue. And the ones that you do find are ones like Alternative Medicine Review, the International Journal of Integrative Medicine. These are already journals that have an alternative slant. Try to find a review of the literature or even a study in the New England Journal of Medicine or in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You’re not going to find that, and that’s simply because the medical community snuffs their nose at a lot of these topics, which are “considered alternative.”
So, with that said, according to the medical side of things, coffee is fine; it’s not going to hurt your health. But, again, nobody’s talking about, doctors are not going to talk about, “Oh yeah, coffee actually ruins your adrenal glands,” because the caffeine in there, over time, will wear down the amount of adrenal hormones you can pump out.” It’s a form of stress and stimulation, which, over time, wears down your adrenal glands.
The other thing is that not everyone responds to caffeine the same way. Some metabolize coffee and caffeine better or differently than others. A lot of our detoxification pathways are genetically determined. That’s why some people wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee and they’re fine and then can’t sleep for days, while other people need several espressos. And then there’s habituation; the more coffee you drink, the more you need to get the same effect, and that’s simply because it’s a drug.
Let’s look at a couple reasons that I don’t recommend coffee in the first place. I would be lying if I said I didn’t drink coffee. I do enjoy coffee—decaf coffee—and the only reason I drink occasionally is if I go to a really nice coffee shop. There’re a lot of really nice cafés and stuff in Toronto, so they’ll make a great decaf latte, so I’ll have one of those once in a while, but the only reason I’m drinking it is simply because I enjoy the taste of it. I’m not using coffee as a way to feel alive.
So, just a couple reasons why I don’t enjoy coffee, the main reason, really, is that, first of all, it’s a drug, and occasionally using it is one thing, but depending on it every single day increases your need for it every single day. Secondly and in result of that, it becomes addictive. If you think you’re not addicted to it, that’s the first stage of an addiction, denial. If you’re addicted, that’s caffeine; that’s the thing. It’s the stimulation.
What else? It stimulates the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. This can lead to short-term stuff like palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, spikes in blood sugar. Over time, this continued stimulation of the adrenal glands wears them down. It’s like driving your car a thousand miles a day, so you end up driving 500,000 miles a year, whatever it is. Do you think your car might run down at some point? Yes.
It’s the same thing with your adrenal glands; it’s the same thing with your body. The more stimulation you provide your adrenal glands, the more likely they are to eventually wear out. Also, it causes urinary secretion of calcium and contributes to osteoporosis as a result of that. And why is that? Well, it blocks a reabsorption pathway in the kidneys, which means that instead of reabsorbing some water—as you know, if you drink caffeine, you just feel like going pee all the time, an when you do that, you lose calcium in your urine.
It can cause diarrhea, so a lot of people use caffeine as a way of going to the bathroom if they’re plugged up, and that’s not a natural way of improving your issues with constipation. We have to look at other ways, like we’ve talked about: fiber, water, omega-3s, or essential fatty acids.
Again, it can also interact with common medications such as Tylenol, leading to liver damage. Again, you’re going to find studies, you’re going to find research, and you’ll find people that love coffee, talking about how beneficial coffee is and there are studies that show it reduces the risk of colon cancer. Honestly, the only reason I think it reduces the risk of colon cancer is because it prematurely evacuates the contents out of your colon so that nothing sits in there. Sure, that’s a good thing for reducing inflammation and stuff, but at the same time, you’re not really giving your nutrients enough time to be absorbed.
We know that with excessive coffee consumption, there is malabsorption of nutrients, and there generally is some nutrient loss, as we’ve talked about, the calcium. You’re not going to hear this stuff, for the most part, in a lot of scientific journals, because they’re looking at things—they might be looking at things like calcium loss and nutrient loss, but they’re not going to be looking at things like adrenal fatigue, which is really, I think, the most important thing when it comes to coffee, because most people drink coffee for energy.
The irony is that the more you drink it, the less energy you have because, again, it’s a drug. The more you drink one cup, you drink one cup for a couple weeks, and then all of a sudden, it becomes two cups. Then two cups doesn’t give you the rise that it used to, so now it becomes three cups. You’re habituating yourself to drink several—I know people that were drinking, like, a liter, a liter of coffee every single day.
It’s excessive and, again, it’s a form of stimulation, it’s a form of stress. If you’re constantly stressed out, eventually, you will wear down your adrenal glands, because your adrenal glands are responsible for dealing with stress. Stimulants like caffeine and sugar are forms of stress, and they are dealt with by the adrenal glands in the same fashion as stress itself. The more you stress them out, the quicker they will wear out.
And, unfortunately, when we see headlines like “Coffee Extends Your Life; It Makes You Live Longer,” very misleading because what’s the point of living longer—which, in this case, you’re not really living longer; it just has no detrimental effect on your health—what’s the point of drinking copious amounts of coffee, thinking that you’re helping yourself prevent cancer and heart disease when, really, you are depleting your energy, which is going to make you feel less likely to be active and do other things that are healthful in terms of reducing the possibility of these issues?
So, is coffee good for you? I personally don’t think so. There’s really no merit to saying, “I’m drinking coffee because it’s actually healthy for me.” You actually enjoy the taste of coffee or you need coffee for its caffeine kick. That’s really the only two reasons you would drink coffee. It’s like eating bread. Do you really think you’re eating bread because of the health benefits? No. Most, well, hopefully not. It’s because most people don’t know what else to eat and it tastes good; that’s it.
I would encourage you to look at alternatives. As I’m recording this podcast, I have a bottle of water in front of me with chlorophyll in it, so it looks like green water. Some people might have coffee. I don’t have coffee in this case; I would rather drink water.
I guarantee you all these amazing studies that glorify coffee—oh my God, you’re going to live longer; you’re going to prevent disease, all this—if they did the same study with how much water did you drink, they would find way better results. Oh, really? You drank a liter of water a day? Well, that reduces the risk of this, this, and this.
Again, we tend to think of it like, “Oh, I’ve seen this study come out. I need to drink more coffee.” Well, if that same study was done with how much green juice you drink a day or how much water do you drink a day, if they did this survey with 500,000 Americans over 50 years of age and they asked them, “How many fresh-pressed green juices do you have a day?” I guarantee you; they would have .01 percent of people that said one green juice.
And then here’s the thing about this; just play with me for a second. Let’s assume that .1 percent of people said “I have one green juice a day,” and then they correlated with all these different issues that they saw none of these people drink green juice. All of a sudden, these people have heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blah, blah, blah, and then this study comes out, with a headline saying, “Green Juice Deficiency Leads to heart Disease, Cancer,” and all this other stuff.
I mean, it’s a bit of a far stretch, but you can see how it’s very easy to construe these types of headlines and construe these types of results based on what you’re looking for. Anyways, I thought this was really interesting to bring up to discuss how science is brought into the mass media and how we perceive this stuff and really looking at the nuts and bolts of these studies, because they’re not the be al land end all. And just because they talk about something doesn’t mean its right, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Remember, the scientific community does omit a lot of stuff that we need to know about, like adrenal fatigue, which they will not talk about just because they don’t see it as a valid thing. They don’t talk about leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability. These are all things, if you type them in to Google Scholar or if you ask your doctor about this stuff, they’ll turn the other way. They just don’t know about it, and because of that, they don’t acknowledge it. That’s a huge problem because they’re doing a lot of people a disservice.
Anyways, what do you think about this? Join me over at the blog, SuperNutritionAcademy.com/blog; let me know your thoughts on this. Are you a coffee drinker? If yes, why do you drink coffee? If no, what else do you drink?
There we go. That’s all for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, and I’ll see you in the next one.
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