Wednesday, March 08, 2006


scare stories, old news

"people carrying a common variation in a certain gene could be worsening their risk of a heart attack simply by drinking several cups of coffee per day."

yes, everyone has been writing me for a couple of days about the latest coffee scare story. and my answer, like so much in the field of coffee and health, is ho-hum.

old news. i know articles like the above are all over the 'net right now, saying "coffee could increase your risk of heart attack -- and you wouldn't even know if you were in danger!"

piffle.

long-time readers may recall that i've written before about people who are sensitive to caffeine. some people are born with genetic variations in their liver enzymes that causes them to metabolize caffeine and many other common drugs differently than most people.

these are the people who appear to be the most sensitive to caffeine -- they metabolize it slowly and incompletely, so it hangs around for them a very long time and affects them more deeply than the majority.

the gene that produces these particular enzymes is called cyp1a2. it is part of a group of genes called cytochrome p450s, a collection of 50 genes that express themselves in different parts of the body, such as the liver and the intestines.

if you have the genetic variant that makes you a slow metabolizer, you probably actually know it, despite what the scary articles try to claim.

the articles say, oh there's no genetic test! we could all be at risk. again, nonsense.

people with this gene variation also don't really metabolize other things well, either, such as ibuprofen (motrin) and acetominophen (tylenol)!

what i'm trying to say here is simply this: do you feel like you're unusually sensitive to caffeine? does even a half cup of half-caf give you jitters?

does coffee that doesn't seem to bother others make your tummy ache or give you intestinal issues?

do you find tylenol and motrin, for example, either don't seem work well for you at all -- the pain comes back really fast, the effect seems to fade in just 2 hours or so -- or do they last a really long time -- so that you need maybe only 1 when other people take 2?

or if you take these medicines at the standard dose do you feel weird, like you're having some kind of bearable but slightly adverse reaction?

for example, does even motrin or tylenol bother your tummy a little? make you a tiny bit nauseous? make your heart race a tad? do you turn a little pale?

if any of these sound familiar to you, dear readers, then you are most likely the dreaded slow metabolizer. you should drink the best decaf you can get your hands on, and no more than 2 cups a day of that.

but unless you're a real type-a, refuse-to-let-the-discomfort-get-to-me personality, you've already learned to avoid much coffee and have probably switched to herb tea.

revel in your status as mutant. read x-men comics.

on the other hand, if tylenol and motrin relieve pain without any side effects but only last for what seems like a short time, then you, dear reader, are a likely super-fast metabolizer, which is also apparently not in the majority.

you are probably also the person who can drink 5 cups of coffee a day, 2 triple espressi before bedtime, and sleep like a baby. "coffee doesn't affect me at all," you say, "what are these wimps complaining about?"

you are a different kind of mutant! read philip k. dick novels.

if you, dear reader are in the solid majority of people who have only normal coffee experiences, i repeat my standard advice: women shouldn't drink more than 3 6-oz. cups of regular coffee a day; men, no more than 4.

some women also find that starting birth-contol pills may change how coffee affects them. this also is due to the liver; the pill can affect how your liver processes caffeine.

if you find yourself in this category, switch to half-caf or decaf, or even try another kind of pill. everyone should always drink coffee in moderation.

which is the reason to only drink the best coffee, properly prepared. and that usually means making it at home -- which is of course the entire purpose of our lives here at bccy, to evangelize home coffee making with the highest quality specialty beans!

for you yoga students, you are no doubt remarking that this also isn't news to you; the yogic tradition of ayurveda has long argued that caffeine is ok for some constitutions and absolutely bad for others. long-time readers know bccy has dealt with before, for example, here.

posted by fortune | 8:13 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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