Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Coffee saves....Coffee kills...

When I was a kid, there was a movement to remove red dye  #12 from food.  At least I think it was red dye #12.  It could have been #3 or yellow #5.  All of them, artificial colors had been used by manufacturers and all of them had been shown in studies to cause cancer in rats.  Most were quietly phased out of foods by 2009. There was also one of the earliest artificial sweeteners, sodium cyclamate.  Cyclamate was banned by the Food and Drug administration in 1970 because it was linked to tumors in lab rats.  I once read that it would take using nearly 2.2 pounds of the stuff per day or week or some such nutty amount to have an effect. I have no idea if it is true.

One site says there has never been any side effects shown in humans. Other sites say that it has been linked to cancer, tumors, birth defects and chromosomal disorders.  I pick these two sites because one tries to look like a happy, harmless cyclamate site and the other is set up to show how scary the stuff is.  Gotta love optics. In any case cyclamate is still sold and approved in 50 countries.  

So what does this have to do with coffee? It is all about studies.  The problems we face is that too often studies are reported as fact before verification.  A published study does not mean it is accepted science.  Any scientist I've ever met will tell you that a study is published so it can be replicated and only when it is replicated again and again and again, is it considered to be valid.  This is despite what some of the researchers may claim on daytime talk shows.

It was two coffee studies reported in August on the same news show that caught my attention.  While I saw the first TV report in August, the actual study came out in July.  In late July, Time posted this about the wonders of coffee, and how it can do everything from protecting you from skin cancer to warding off Alzheimers. Then in late August came this little study, coffee is deadly.  Drinking more than four cups of coffee a day for those under 55 causes a higher rate of death.  Over 55, not so much.  That would seem to me to be a big marker that somehow coffee has a less deadly effect after a certain age.  I also have no idea how big a cup is.  A measuring cup is eight ounces,but a regular coffee cup for a coffee maker is six ounces.  I should point out a number of folks are already questioning the validity of this study.

The point is that far too often we see only one study in the news and seldom hear of the follow up evidence.  Yet such reporting causes sudden movements to ban this product or that.  We all know the theory of moderation in all things.  So before you post that meme to ban this or that or start a movement, please check the science. There are far too many things started on studies that are as yet meeting the standard.