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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hello Longer Life, Goodbye Confounding Factors

Last Monday, I woke up to an amazing cup of hot Gevalia bold, as well as a bold ‘more good news about coffee' headline strewn across social media.

Per the NYT (9-16-15): “Well: Coffee tied to lower risk of dying prematurely.”

The story was picked up everywhere. After years of reading one coffee study after another suggesting that coffee has health benefits of some sort, the results of this observational, Harvard-based study with more than 200,000 individuals included as part of the analysis, were undeniable:

3 facts: Coffee is good for you. Not drinking coffee is worse than drinking coffee. Coffee-drinkers are healthier and live longer.

This study, which was published by Dr. Ming Ding and his colleagues at Harvard in this month’s issue of Circulation analyzed 30 years of data---enough time to know whether a person lived a long life or died prematurely.

More coffee equals more life
The results in short:
·         One to 3 cups of coffee per day=8% reduced risk of death
·         Three to 5 cups=15% reduced risk of death
·         5+ cups=12% reduced risk of death

Specifically, higher levels of coffee consumption were correlated with lower levels of death from heart disease, stroke, neurological diseases, diabetes and suicide.

The smoking factor
When Dr. Ming and his colleagues looked at the data head-on, the benefits associated with coffee were modest. For example, preliminary results showed that people drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day had a 7% lower risk of dying.

But---and this is a very important ‘but’---when the researchers took smokers out of the equation, suddenly the longevity benefits associated with coffee consumption emerged. Even smokers benefited modestly from coffee, but only a little and not significantly compared with non-coffee drinkers.

Why? Because the effect of smoking (and the related increased risk of death) is so powerful that it trumps the effects of potentially health-enhancing behaviors, including drinking coffee.

Confounding factors
Smoking is what is known as a ‘confounding factor,’ meaning it skews clinical trial data and needs to be taken out in order to see the picture more clearly. For years, during the 1800’s and 1900’s, there were numerous studies showing that coffee was bad for health, and could lead to cancer, heart attack and even death.

Then statisticians and other quants started to notice blips in the data that were too obvious to ignore. They started to parse the data more carefully and factor in the role that confounding factors play in any health-related study. Suddenly a different picture emerged---and along with it a growing evidence base extolling the health benefits of coffee.

So now we know.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Coffee-Questing: A Mad Dash to Moon Doggie

Mid-November has been unseasonably warm---much to the delight of people everywhere grappling with the inevitable darkness that comes with the onset of winter, as well as the bleak darkness of the current news cycle. We can only speculate that among the 127 people killed in Paris last Friday, some of them were out enjoying a cup of coffee, while basking in the splendor of an unseasonably warm Parisian evening. It was in the midst of this everyday joy that tragedy struck. We also know that undoubtedly among those also killed by terrorists in Lebanon and Kenya recently, there were also many coffee-lovers.

While lots of commentary has been focused on the horrors of terrorism and the tenuous quality of day-to-day life, we will add to the cacophony by saying how precious life is. Even the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee from a renowned small cafe in Maywood, NJ on a balmy Monday night is special---a chance to simply be a coffee-loving human sharing a universally beloved brew on the first day of the workweek, well that's something wonderful.

A Moon Doggie Monday

On Monday, November 15, a friend of mine and a fellow blogger, George, suggested that I join him on a short trip from Montclair to Maywood to try the coffee at Moon Doggie. George is on a quasi-quixotic quest to visit the 98 coolest coffee shops in New Jersey (based on a NJ Monthly Magazine round-up). So far, he's hit about 35---and I was honored to accompany him to #36.

En route to Moon Doggie, George offhandedly suggested that I check the closing time. Experience has taught George that neighborhood coffee shops tend to close on the early side, especially during the week. We cut it close, but we were determined to get there before it closed at 5 pm. We made it with three minutes to spare.

Moon Doggie is an unassuming, independently owned neighborhood coffee shop in a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare with head-on parking. Once inside, we noticed the eclectic decor and the comforting icons of coffee-drinking---mugs, pastries and muffins, mid-century consumer art and pop culture that celebrates the American coffee-drinking experience. Being Americans who like to drink coffee, we decided to partake.

Self-serve coffee for the coffee connoisseur

Once Dave the barista handed us our cups, we headed over to the deceptively straightforward coffee-dispensing canisters. George found the Guatemalan coffee to be flavorful and sufficiently hot in contrast to the New Moon Coffee, which was not hot enough. Nonetheless, the New Moon coffee was redeemed by its smooth, spicy body.

I agreed wholeheartedly with George's assessment, so I had a bit of both and left with a cup of hot Guatemalan. We also shared a pumpkin spice muffin, which was huge, homemade, healthfully concocted and the perfect blend of pumpkin and spice.

The takeaway

Overall, it was worth the hustle that it took to get there. In addition to the friendly neighborhood vibe and the accommodating barista, Moon Doggie gave us a warm spot to chill and enjoy a good cup of coffee, if only for a few precious minutes.

Next time you're in Maywood, check out Moon Doggie!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A long overdue post...and coffee improves sexual function in men (Who knew?)

It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog and shared my coffee-loving passion. Please believe me when I tell you that my passion has not faltered---not one bit. However, for the past 15 months I have been focusing on my new role at Biopharma Dive covering all aspects of the biopharmaceutical industry. It’s been an intense experience, in the best possible way. However, in addition to being intellectually engaging and rigorous, it is also time-consuming and challenging. No time to blog about coffee, but I still make time to drink coffee every day.

I still love coffee---early-morning, freshly brewed coffee; afternoon coffee from Starbucks; and date-night/late-night coffees. It’s all about coffee, all the time. Instant Via when I’m in a pinch and communal coffee with other moms and writers throughout the day.

Drinking Coffee in Martha’s Vineyard
For me, one of the best parts of vacationing is having a chance to breathe deeply and savor my coffee-drinking experiences. During my annual pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard this summer, I enjoyed coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, Coffee Obsession in Falmouth, Mocha Mott’s in Oak Bluffs, Black Dog Café in Vineyard Haven and Lavazza brewed in the mornings.

Mr. Pugg's Coffee---Best in Oak Bluffs
I also went to see Ernie at Mr. Pugg’s on Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs. After 10 years, Ernie still brews the most personalized cup of coffee on the Vineyard. He handcrafts his coffees, and his smoothies, which are especially good. He stays open until late fall. Visit him in OB at 49 Circuit Ave.

Different coffee, same positive effect
In each case, the coffees were different. Dunkin’ is reliably hot and sufficiently caffeinated, served with a smile. Coffee Obsession had lots of children’s books and very good peanut butter cookies, as well as a perfect picture-window setting for drinking coffee and chatting. Black Dog is, well, it’s Black Dog----strong, rugged, fragrant coffee that goes down very smooth.  Lavazza was a welcome surprise. It had been a long time since I drank it, but my friend decided this would be our coffee for the week, and so it was.

But there was one thing all the coffees had in common. The coffee was consumed in good company and to good effect. It was uplifting and intensely rewarding.

Coffee keeps you healthy
My blog was initially conceived to promote the health benefits of coffee and combat the erroneous idea that coffee is one of the three major vices as in “alcohol, cigarettes and coffee.” As an avid non-smoker and someone who drinks very little alcohol, coffee has always been my go-to substance of choice. But it is not a vice.

In previous posts, I’ve explored the numerous health benefits of coffee, including decreased risk of liver cancer, depression, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and prostate cancer---and the fact that drinking coffee is strongly correlated with a longer life. Most of these health benefits are widely known already. However, there are a couple of newly discovered benefits associated with coffee-drinking based on recently completed studies.

Coffee decreases erectile dysfunction
Here’s a very encouraging study: According to a study conducted at the University of Texas at Houston, Dr. David Lopez and his colleagues found that drinking two to three cups of coffee each day can lower a man’s risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) by as much as 42%.

Add that to the “good news” column associated with coffee.  Now I am back to writing, though I'm still enjoying summer. Nothing like sipping a large cup of iced coffee wearing a bathing suit poolside…Enjoy!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Drinking *Caffeinated* Coffee in Martha’s Vineyard

Mid-August in Martha’s Vineyard is as good a time as any to drink coffee. And there are lots of good options to find good coffee. Two of the best known are Mocha Mott’s, with locations in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs and the Black Dog Bakery and Café in Vineyard Haven. I love them both.

Black Dog vs. Mocha Mott’s
I like Mocha Mott’s for its reliability and I *love* their peanut butter cookies (When I feel guilty about eating them I focus on the high levels of protein compared with chocolate chip cookies).
 I like Black Dog coffee for its smooth taste and dark roast. It’s mellow….almost better to drink it on an overcast day, rather than a sunny, let’s-hit-the-beach day. Black dog coffee always tastes like summer turning into fall. It reminds me of trees with a few brightly colored leaves and pullover earth-tone sweaters. It’s good coffee to drink if you have to get some work done.
 I have been enjoying both Mocha Motts and Black Dog coffees for years and don’t really have a preference. However, despite the fact that the well-known cafés that sell these blends are go-to coffee spots, there are also some unsung coffee shops on the Vineyard---many. I’m going to focus on one.

Little House Café
In my opinion, the best cup of breakfast coffee in Vineyard Haven is from Little House Café.  Some of the best coffees they serve are their Guatemalan and Ethiopian coffees. Their coffee is rich, full of texture, hot, hot, hot, and very, very caffeinated.

Coffee and Tinnitus—Drink More, Ring Less
Why would you drink anything else other than caffeinated coffee? That is if you want to enjoy some of the coffee-related health benefits that come from the caffeine. A study that came out last week in the August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Medicine evaluated the effect of caffeine intake on the risk of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, including analysis of more than 65,000 women, researchers found that women who drank at least 600 mg of coffee a day (that’s about 4 cups) were 21% less likely to experience tinnitus compared with women who consumed 150 mg a day or less (1 cup or less). Who wants ringing in their ears? And clinically speaking there’s a bit more to the tinnitus story---it's not just the bother and annoyance of hearing sounds internally. Did you know that 90% of people with tinnitus have underlying hearing loss and a large percentage of patients with tinnitus suffer from severe depression and from insomnia. 

Caffeine and Fat-burning….It Works
Coffee’s fat-burning qualities are widely appreciated. Not only does it help stave off appetite, it also helps boost metabolism for up to 4 hours after consumption. A 2004 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the effect of caffeine on fat dissolution in study subjects—at rest. Their metabolic processes were tested 90 minutes after consumption and then again at the 240 post-consumption mark.  Drinking caffeinated coffee doubled the rate at which fats were broken down in the body and increased energy expenditure by 13%.  And if you drink caffeinated coffee and EXERCISE you burn even more fat and increase your metabolism even more. YAY EXERCISE!!!!
All good stuff! Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Get Fitter this Summer with Pre-exercise Caffeine---and the Joy of Trying New Coffee Places on Vacation

OK, this notion of getting the perfect summer body is cliché. But so what? A lot of people are into working out and it can be lots of fun. Everyone knows (and appreciates) the benefits of working out, but did you know that drinking coffee before exercise makes you burn 15% more calories hours after exercise. It’s basically a two-for one proposition: post-exercise health benefits and increased metabolism plus a metabolic boost from coffee. 

The precise numbers can be found in this paper from the June 2014 issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. If you like to parse numbers and enjoy a good quantitative read, you will really enjoy this paper; however, the big takeaway is coffee before exercise augments exercise-related benefits.       


 Have you started vacationing or taking mini-vacations yet? The season is definitely ramping up, and it feels great. Several years ago, when we were in Mystic, Connecticut on a mini-vacation, I went to Bartleby’s Cafe on Main Street, aptly named for Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. (I think perhaps if the guy had more coffee, he could have figured out how to get out of his unsatisfactory job situation.) Anyway, the coffee is excellent and the peanut butter cookies are amazing. So this year, I came back for more coffee...and my business card was still on the bulletin board five years later (talk about having a home-town feel).  It’s really close to the drawbridge and across the street from Mystic Pizza and the Black Dog General Store. Don’t miss it the next time you’re in town! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Can one day of Gorilla Coffee in Montclair lead to a lifetime of love?

By the time I got to Whole Foods this afternoon, I was on the brink of exhaustion (though it was a happy exhaustion since I had just completed an hour of power yoga and half an hour of cardio).  I had been up working during the early morning hours, gotten kids to schools, worked out---and gone for a walk. I had already consumed at least 5 cups of coffee....

So when Rhiannon Corby, a representative from Gorilla Coffee, a microbrewery with 2 locations in Park Slope, Brooklyn, offered me coffee, I actually wavered briefly. Very briefly. "Sure," I said. I tried a small cup of Ixil A' Achimbal single-source Guatemalan coffee--a coffee grown by a collective of coffee farmers in the rugged western highlands.

My response: It gave me a sense of completeness. A satisfaction that even I could not articulate. Drinking this tiny cup of Gorilla Coffee made me feel more alive and gave my life in that moment brighter overtones. I felt like a craving was being fulfilled and stimulated at the same time.

Rhiannon told me that the subtle bliss I was experiencing may be related to the coffee's "herbal overtones," a quality that she referred to as "herbalicious."

I had to have it. EXCEPT: The Guatemalan coffee was sold out. Web site to the rescue. And as I was leaving, I said to her, "Do you know that coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet?

"Of course," she said. "And it prevents diabetes and a lot of other diseases."

Exactly. Would you like to share my coffee-drinking epiphany? There are new experiences to be had. Perhaps I'll see you in Brooklyn...


Flagship store/cafe: 97 5th Avenue in Park Slope (at the corner of Park Place)
New location! 472 Bergen St.
Both locations are easily accessed from the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. stop


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Suddenly Sunny! Coffee Decreases the Risk of Skin Cancer (and More)

Happy spring! The weather has morphed from on-the-verge-of-one-more blizzard to feels-like-summer-during-the-daytime weather. The sun is shining. There are even a few people sporting sun visors and Vera Bradley sun hats.

Spring means renewal---and a desire to get away from the same old, same old.  For years, I’ve been ruminating on the many benefits of coffee. The fact that coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet (we absorb the antioxidants in coffee more readily than fruits and vegetables) and that it significantly decreases the risk of Parkinson’s disease, depression, liver disease and type 2 diabetes. It also makes you smarter, less depressed and a better athlete. 

We know that: NEXT!

So here’s the news---speaking of fashionable, uber-chic visors and sun hats: Drinking coffee decreases the risk of skin cancer in women, according to a study from Harvard University. In a 20-year-study of 112,000 people, women who drunk at least 3 cups of coffee per day were much less likely to develop skin cancer. 

Get ready for summer…It’s coming! And enjoy the spring holidays! Chag Sameach! Happy Easter!