Thursday, March 29, 2007

Starbucks and Your Health

Why would a doctor write about coffee, and, about a corporation, to boot? No, I am not addicted to coffee. When I stop drinking my one cup a day, I don’t get a headache. Chances are you are a coffee drinker yourself, if you are bothering to read this braindropping. So relax, get a cup of coffee, and read this to feel good about hanging out at Starbucks.

First of all, coffee has been shown to be very high in antioxidants. In fact, it is the single highest source of antioxidants that Americans take in, by far. This is more of an indictment on our poor consumption of vegetables, though. If you want to read about the health benefits of coffee, read the British J. Nutrition 2005;93:773, “Is coffee a functional food?” I think of coffee as I do alcohol: one or two glasses (cups) is great, but beyond that, some people will get diminishing returns, especially in stomach issues, and cardiovascular problems, like heart rhythm abnormalities, and higher blood pressure. Still, even the elderly, who have more sensitive stomachs and weaker hearts benefit from coffee in moderation (American J. Clinical Nutrition 2007;85:392.)

Perhaps this will make you feel the best: coffee reduces insulin resistance, so, it helps you lose weight, and decrease your chances of developing diabetes (J. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 2005;54:306.)

With these thoughts in mind, I sat outside my neighborhood’s Starbucks, where every body knows my name (“doc.”) It was my first peek at Spring, under the snowy mountains of Draper, a suburb in Salt Lake City. As I read the New York Times (which I have a legitimate right to do, since I used to live in the Big Apple,) I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the orders being placed by people going through the drive window. With no exception, they were ordering their drinks with a lot of sugar. Not one of them got their coffee like a real man, that is, black, and very strong (I always get a grande with two shots of espresso to last me all day long.)

This is where you may get mad at me: I feel that, if there is an addiction at play, it is mostly to the sugar people are ruining their coffee with. Remember that milk, or cream, is 55% sugar. Also, eating a lot of sugar causes our taste buds to get used to an explosion of sweetness, so that nothing short of satisfying that sweet tooth will ever taste better. Think of your kids (and some of you) who will not eat their veggies. How could they? Veggies are “yucky,” they have “no taste,” compared to the artificial sweets our taste has grown accustomed to.

All this reminds me of coffee’s “cousin,” chocolate. Their antioxidant profile is similar, and so is their rather bitter taste, in their natural state. So, why are people addicted to chocolate? It’s not to the chocolate itself, or the cocoa, but to the milk and sugar that candy companies add to this wonderful fruit (some think cocoa is a nut.) We all know “chocoholics,” and you may be one of them. Ask them to eat straight chocolate, without the processing. I bet you they will not like it.

Of course, all this comes from the doc who wrote “Sweet Death,” a book that documents how most of our chronic health problems stem from poor diets, high in trans fats, and refined sugars, to which we, as a nation are addicted.

So, are you sitting there enjoying your coffee, or your sugar? You will no doubt say “both.” OK. This is a very good answer, unless you see yourself craving sugar all day long. Then, my friend, you may have a problem.

But, I don’t want to ruin your coffee experience, so, let’s move on, and read some more about Starbucks and your health. As you know, Starbucks’ meteoric success is in part due to the communal experience we have when we go there. Starbucks has filled a tremendous vacuum in our society, one that churches, bars, and other venues have failed to do, since the above, as good as they may be for some of us, tend to be divisive, so, we as a nation, have not had a place where everyone, no matter our beliefs, color, jobs, or education can meet just to enjoy the smell, the taste, and the sights of our fellowman, and fellow woman, enjoying themselves in the warmth of our communities.

Starbucks’ founding mission has a lot to do with your health, too: Mr. Schultz’s dream was to build a company where his employees could have very good health benefits, share in the ownership of stocks, and be treated with respect (“True North,” book by Bill George.) Have you noticed how happy your baristas seem to be? Their attitude permeates the store. In a country where the gap between the rich and the poor widens daily, and where 45 million of us lack health insurance, his vision is a glimpse of what businesses should copy, if they wish to succeed.

Yeah, the uninsured figure has been lowered by 2 million: of course, they died without health care!

Enjoy your coffee, and see if you can enjoy it black, next time.

3 Comments:

At March 30, 2007 at 12:47:00 PM PDT , Blogger Marita said...

Hi Doc: I missed your show this week cause there are so many new religious stations right around 1060am I couldn't find KDYL on the radio I brought with me to the coffee shop(not Starbucks).Trying to find your show I almost got converted, I swear.(I swear too much for most people, but, hey, it's probably adrenal exhaustion).
Not to take your good humor to task, especially with the threat of a double expresso macho grande storming the barricades, I just want to mention a couple of things. About Starbucks and about numbers of cups.
Who doesn't love their 'almostspheric' music which yesterday I read even our own beloved Paul McCartney now has signed onto(rest his departed wife Linda's beautiful soul)? And I''ve read that actually FOUR cups of coffee has recently been declared the item with which to fight diabetes, which will do Starbucks books well. The people of Ethiopia do not like Starbucks, as well as a lot of coffee drinkers everywhere who know about their crooked bait and switch schemes to not sell and actively market fair trade coffee. The people at Oxfam in England, brave humanitarians that they are have roundly castigated Starbucks for trying to finegle the drought and AIDS plagued Ethiopians into selling their Trade Marked signature Coffee names to Starbucks. Green Mountain Roasters have recently decided to help the Ethiopians by helping them with sustainable agriculture and coffee distribution. So, there is justice in the works, but Starbucks needs to get out of 'Egyptian' expressoland and actually wake up and smell the mood of our newly emerging savvy synergist subcultures. They don't even offer a daily FAIRTRADE choice. They USED to have one day a month they would serve it, but that's been curtailed.
so there's my two items. I can't wait to hear a longer show again, with call in's. Maybe you could do a podcast, eh? Loved your references to Rachel Carson and Silent Spring a few weeks ago, by the way. She was one of the greats as well as our beloved Linus Pauling, whose picture used to grace my kitchen window.
Ciao for now, Marita

 
At August 31, 2007 at 5:01:00 PM PDT , Anonymous DrJoy said...

I read your posting about coffee reducing insulin resistance and helping lose weight with curiousity. Coffee causes a profound spike in insulin levels which STOPS the process of burning fat, thus negating the efforts of the black coffee drinking dieter.
How can these two facts be so diametic to each other?
DrJoy

 
At September 5, 2007 at 1:00:00 PM PDT , Blogger Dr .Hugo Rodier said...

Dr. Joy,

I wish I had clear and unambiguous advise for you when it comes to coffee. As you will see, the data are mixed. After reviewing the following articles, you may get a sense that coffee is likely OK (I do) if not abused.

Coffee reminds me of alcohol, which is OK in moderation. In fact, consumed in moderation, alcohol reduces IR (J. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 2005;54:306,) like coffee does (J. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 2007;56:599.)

But, you will still hear about articles saying that coffee may worsen our risk of pre-diabetes (J. Annals Nutrition & Metabolism 2006;50:407.) But, any food consumed in excess will increase insulin secretion.

I feel the problem is drinking too much coffee, particularly if your liver does not detoxify it very well. Coffee in excess increases the risk of non fatal heart attacks, if the person has a slow CYP1A2 allele, or gene, which impairs coffee metabolism in the liver (JAMA 2006;295:1135.) THis is why I feel we find so much divergent data.

Also remember that toxins in the environment cause more insulin resistance (" Persistent pollutants and the burden of diabetes, "J. Lancet 2006;368:558.)

Coffee's well documented ability to upregulate liver detoxification then is presumed to counteract the insulin resistance effect of pollutants.

Weak adrenal glands, perhaps from genetics, or too much trauma, emotional, and/or physical, also have a lot to say on how you handle coffee. People with a tendency to TOILing in the cell membranes lining their esophagus, and stomach, may get symptoms of reflux, and even gastritis with too much coffee. I am one of them, so, I am forced to limit my coffee to one cup a day. My dad woke up dead from a bleeding ulcer. I am afraid I inherited his poor tendency to molt the lining of my stomach, which is brand new every 36 hours.
Compounding the problem is the possibility of an addicting personality, which would make it very hard to stop at one or two cups a day, since caffeine has an addictive potential.

Again, this is the same as alcohol. The American Medical Association recommends that you limit your alcohol intake to one, or two drinks a day, and don't start drinking if you don't now, since you don't know how you will react when faced with the potential of developing an addiction.

I would advice you to do the same with coffee. A moderate amount has been defined as less than 4 cups a day. This seems excessive to me, so, I limit myself to one cup a day, with meals, and never in the morning, or late at night.

Get yourself a cup of Joe, or not, and read the highlights of one of the best articles I have seen on coffee: "Is coffee a functional food?" (British J. Nutrition 2005;93:773.)

Coffee has a lot of antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic compounds, theobromine, xanthine, nicotinic acid, trigonelline, quinolinic acid, tannic acid, pyrogallic acid, and hydroxycinnamic acids.)

This is why it is the single most important source of antioxidants in the USA, which is really a reflection of how low the American diet is on fruits and veggies (Scranton University report, August 29 th, 2005. Reuters News.) Coffee's maximum antioxidant activity is found when it is roasted medium.

Other drinks have antioxidants, too. The most are found in green and black tea, then, in descending order, coffee, coca cola, red wine, carrot juice, apricot nectar, and white wine. Coke is on the list because they add teobromines, caffeine, and vitamins. Too bad they also add HFCS, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings, and acid. More below.

- Unfiltered Italian coffee raises glutathione levels (the strongest antioxidant.)
- Coffee decreases the absorption of potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
- On the average, the average caffeine content is 58-259 mg/serving
- Coffee is best decaffeinated through the supercritical CO2 method. Arabian coffee is 70% caffeine free. Ethopian Coffea arabica 94% caffeine free.
- Coffee decreases early morning drive sleepiness for about 30 minutes, following no sleep, and 2 hrs after sleep restriction.
Coffee reduces breast cancer risk, except in obese women. It decreases liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis gall bladder stones, asthma, sugar levels after a meal, and it also decreases the risk of diabetes, and the risk of cardiovascular events.
- Coffee increases body temperature, energy expenditure, testosterone, potency and sexual activity in elderly women.
- It improves mood, lowers risk of suicide, increases speed of processing information, and improves cognitive performance. Coffee induces better neurologic outcomes, ADD improvement, lower risk Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. It also improves the dopamine system, so that it is useful in alcohol and drug addiction. Cappuccino may be used to treat the dry mouth seen with tricyclic antidepressants.

But, problems may be seen after 4 cups a day: withdrawal syndrome, short sleep, increase in blood pressure, increase inflammation, and lower infant birth weight

 

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