Posted by: drrozkaplan | February 3, 2011

In Defense of Caffeine

Yesterday I heard about a study conducted on the effects of caffeine on thought process.  The quick version of the results:  women who consume coffee in the workplace have enhanced performance and clearer thinking.  In contrast, men’s thinking became more disorganized and they were less efficient and less productive.  Now, since I heard this on the news and have not seen an article detailing the study methods or how the conclusions were made, I can’t give any assessment of whether this is accurate.  But it made me just a little bit happy.  Not so much to know that caffeine causes men to fall apart, but because it confirms my own perception that my Grande Latte (okay, sometimes my triple shot Grande Latte, when I’m really tired) makes my morning better, and that cup of coffee or green tea after lunch really does give me a little lift.

There are people in my life who criticize my caffeine habit.  They are convinced that it is going to cause my demise.  I laugh and say  “a girl has got to have one little vice.”  Really.  Otherwise, I’m so clean-living it’s kind of nauseating.  Healthy diet most of the time, exercise, practically no alcohol, regular hours–how boring would these people like me to be?  I keep telling them, the evidence just isn’t there for coffee as a toxin.  Look how long it’s been around, and how few coffee-related deaths are reported!  You’d think if it was such a danger, we would have figured it out by now.   Some of these anti-caffeine zealots say it’s like tobacco: the coffee-bean growers and Starbucks baristas all have a conspiracy to keep the dangers a secret.  But I just don’t buy that.

Alright, total disclosure.  As a physician, I must give the medical information.  There are people who SHOULD NOT be drinking coffee.  People with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and some related GI problems.  And I will admit, there are a lot of people with GERD.  People with palpitations and heart arrhythmias that are increased by caffeine.  And, obviously, people with insomnia.  Many people with insomnia tell me that they know it’s not caffeine that’s causing the problem, because they stop drinking coffee at 2 or 3 pm.  But that doesn’t cut it, because caffeine has a very long half life.  If you are an insomniac, you should cut yourself off after that first morning cup.

Barring those medical conditions, however, there is no proof that coffee harms us.  And believe me, people have been trying to prove that coffee is dangerous for decades.  There were the studies trying to prove that it causes pancreatic cancer.  Disproven.  There were studies trying to prove it caused diabetes.  Disproven.  In fact, up to 6 cups a day, it seems to improve glucose metabolism.  (After 6 cups, all bets are off, but I’m not suggesting that any of us be extreme.  Six cups is a lot.  Really.  Enough.) There were studies trying to implicate coffee in hypertension.  Even those were not successful in showing much of an effect.

So relax over that morning cup, at least if you’re female.  If you’re male, well, maybe you should consider your job performance.  Sorry, guys.



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