Let’s discuss this over coffee

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Did you have a cup of coffee this morning?  If you did, and you are pregnant, then one more cup in the next 24 hours is dangerous, according to some researchers.  However, if you are not pregnant, you may be reducing your risk of ovarian cancer, one of the top six killer cancers!

Controversy has raged since the Middle Ages as to the medicinal, or otherwise, effects of coffee.  A 1661 tract titled, “A character of coffee and coffee-houses”, listed some of the perceived benefits:

“Tis extolled for drying up the Crudities of the Stomack, and for expelling Fumes out of the Head.  Excellent Berry! which can cleanse the English-man’s Stomak of Flegm, and expel Giddinesse out of his Head.”

However, just like today, there was another side to the coffee bean.  An anonymous “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” in 1674 declared:

“ …the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called Coffee has Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.”

So there you have it.  In the Middle Ages coffee cleared your head but had disastrous effects on the male dangly bits.

These days we pride ourselves on being much better educated on all fronts, with armies of researchers all over the world looking at everything, including coffee.  Every week in the lay press you are bombarded with horror stories of what dangers we all face.  These horror stories come from reports done by legitimate researchers, picked up by the media and away it goes from there.

On the surface, it all seems very probable.  Take the two cups of caffeine and be ready to miscarry item.  Dr De-Kun Li of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, whose study involved 1063 pregnant women who never changed their caffeine consumption during pregnancy.  What they found was women who consumed the equivalent of two or more cups of regular coffee or five 340 ml cans of caffeinated soft drink – were twice as likely to miscarry as pregnant women who avoided caffeine.

However, this study of 1063 pregnant women is also a very small percentage of women world-wide who drink coffee while they are pregnant.

However, two days after the shock-horror miscarriage item hit the world media, there was another report.  Researchers now claim the much-demonized substance may fight cancer.

After studying more than 80,000 women, US and Australian experts found foods containing caffeine – such as coffee, tea, cola and chocolate – may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, the sixth-most common cause of cancer deaths among Australian women.

According to Assistant Professor Shelley Tworoger of Harvard University in Boston and her colleagues – including medical epidemiologist Associate Professor Dorota Gertig of the University of Melbourne and Victorian Cytology Service – caffeine was beneficial, but decaffeinated coffee showed no health benefit at all.

For reasons they cannot yet explain, the group also found the beneficial effect of caffeine was strongest for women who had never used oral contraceptives or postmenopausal replacement hormone therapy.

The researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study, an ongoing assessment of the well-being of 212,701 female registered nurses that began in 1976 when the nurses were aged 30-35.

Every two years, researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital checked up on the surviving women.  After studying the nurses’ history, Professor Tworoger and Professor Gertig’s group found only a very small association between smoking and mucinous tumours, a rare form of ovarian cancer.  They also found no connection between alcohol consumption and ovarian cancer.

Oncologist Ian Olver, head of Cancer Council Australia, said, “It’s well worth looking into further,” and even coffee and chocolate couldn’t hurt and might even help.  “My standard advice is everything in moderation,” he said.

The whole research really hangs on Professor Olver’s statement, “It’s well worth looking into further.”  And research salaries and equipment costs money, and where does it come from?  Make the biggest claims with the greatest amount of shock-horror and funding will be forthcoming.  Mark my words, the chocolate manufacturers will jump on this like blowflies on a dead donkey.

Now I must go and have a cup of coffee.  I don’t have to worry, I’m male!