The miles to go before I sleep...

  • Start teaching science at school and incorporate demo
  • Research, design, implement comprehensive teaching module on science, civic sense
  • Interview social change agents working @ ground level
  • Pilot peer-to-peer teaching programme

Friday, June 09, 2006


It is around 3 O'clock in the afternoon and it is hard to stay awake, let alone focus on work. But this situation occurs so often that everyone knows the remedy to it. Coffee! This is probably the sole reason why people in our site are as active as they are after lunch. Employees in Synopsys, Hyderabad are diverse not only in culture, but also in habituation to coffee. Some totally refrain from coffee, while some practically live on it. Some prefer tea, while some enjoy both alike.

What one prefers is one's choice. But the reasons behind the choice is interesting and worthy of a discussion. An employee of Synopsys Hyderabad who consciously refrains from coffee, says, "I don't want to drink coffee because it is addictive." So, how true are such common notions about coffee? A quick search in the internet shows that coffee is hot! as a topic of discussion, that is. News articles on latest scientific findings, dedicated websites for awareness about coffee, recipes for various purposes like pre-workout nourishment and stress reduction are common search results on coffee. Like any thing famous, controversy and sensationalism afflicts coffee's reputation, but truth emerges quickly with some patient research.


The most widely "known" opinion about coffee is probably coffee's "addictive" nature. After all every one knows that coffee (or the lack of it) causes headache. World Health Organization admits that it happens to "some sensitive individuals" who may "experience such effects when their daily intake is quickly and substantially altered. But any such effect is always overcome by progressively reducing the intake of coffee over a few days." So, moderation, rather than abstinence, will suffice.

Coffee and Cancer:

If research is to be trusted, coffee has a love-hate relations

hip with cancer. One Japanese research published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that two to three cups of coffee helps reducing the risk of liver cancer. On the other hand, a research publication in Chronic Diseases in Canada links coffeewith risks in bladder cancer with four cups of coffee per day. For women, the same amount of coffee may increase the risk of breast cancer.

A little effort beyond casual "google-ing" brings out the truth about coffee's relationship with cancer. While certain research studies categorically vindicate coffee from its perceived ill-effects, a few others that eulogize coffee's effects are based on possibilities, rather than scientific proof. For instance, a research article involving researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, (the top ranked cancer institute according to US News) concludes that "consumption of coffee does not influence the incidence of breast cancer."[1] On the other hand, if we consider coffee's "capabilities" on curing liver cancer, according to reports in MSNBC, the Japanese researchers have tested two groups of 100,000 people. One group "never or almost never drank coffee", while the other group drank coffee regularly. They found that the first group had 547 individuals with liver cancer after 11 years of observation. In the same period, the second group produced only about 215 with liver cancer. So, they concluded that, coffee may be responsible for preventing liver cancer. But MSNBC followed the news up with this.

"While the study found a statistically significant relationship between drinking coffee and having less liver cancer, the authors note that it needs to be repeated in other groups. And the reason for the reduction remains unclear."[2]

With no scientific evidence relating coffee to reduction of liver cancer, the conclusions of this research cannot be a convincing proof for coffee's benign effects.

Another angle:

Looking at the issue from a different perspective, coffee's effect on a healthy individual, malign or benign, usually shows up when the consumption is four cups or more. For instance, coffee's possible contribution to bladder cancer is prominent only when an average four cups are consumed per day. Similar observations are made on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another research claims that six cups of coffee a day reduces the chance of Type 2 diabetes by 50% (University of Harvard Medical School). So, it may be safely assumed that a moderate coffee consumption of 2 to 3 cups a day will be non-intrusive.

Popular truth:

However, not all the popular notions about coffee are false. Coffee increases mental alertness, but excess coffee causes insomnia and indigestion. If coffee is loaded up with sugar and creamer, over a period of time, it increases the LDL cholesterol level and hence the chances of diabetes. Hypertensive individuals are especially prone to increased blood pressure.

Bottom line:

Most of the research studies linking coffee to a disease don't go beyond establishing a possible statistical correlation. Alternatively, research pointing to coffee's beneficial effects mostly point out that such effects are prominent only if the intake is high. If you avoid coffee thinking that it will shorten you lifespan, you are a victim of media hype and unsubstantiated rumors. A cup or two of coffee per day is non-intrusive to a healthy person, save its mouth-watering aroma and a taste that lives up to the expectation its aroma generates. But to avoid the short-term effects (insomnia etc.) moderation is the key.




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