Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drinking Coffee While Ruminating on Spring, Community Updates, and an Interesting New Publication about Coffee's Connection to Reduced Risk of Cancer



Spring played very hard to get this year. We talked about how "brutal" and "relentless" the cold weather was, but little by little, spring arrived. There were days of radiant sun and clear blue skies---quickly followed by plummeting temps and brisk winds. And there was always the unspoken threat of snow, which at this late date brought no delight, not even for the kids... So what did we do (besides burrow inside)?

We drank coffee!

We've been drinking coffee non-stop since February. While it was cold, we drank hot coffee with dollops of skim milk to warm ourselves, and when it warmed up, we gulped it down---hot and iced---with a zeal that only exists when the weather gets warm in normally cool climates.



Coffee-drinking in the spring is pure celebration---and for me, this was the spring of drinking coffee for every occasion---Columbian on Passover, Maxwell House on Easter, Pike's Place during Light's Out Earth Hour in Montclair, and Sumatra on Mother's Day.


We drank coffee in a spirit of rejuvenation and felt ourselves come alive more fully to the world in bloom all around us. In fact, coffee-drinking is intensely rejuvenating. In the morning, coffee strengthens us physically and reawakens our intellectual drive and curiosity. Things suddenly become clear and focused. Coffee readies us for the day ahead!

Fortunately,caffeine is absorbed very quickly into the body, reaching peak levels within an hour. From the very first sip, everything speeds up, muscles become stronger, the cortex of the brain is stimulated, and the airways to the lungs open up.

There is also evidence, recently published in Cancer Letters (2009; 277:121-25), that coffee has properties that can help prevent cancer-causing processes from unfolding in our bodies. Specifically, cafestol and kahweal are known to be anti-carcinogenic. These two molecules, in addition to chlorogenic acid, which contributes to coffee's antioxidant effects and increases insulin sensitivity (helps prevent diabetes), are thought to be the reason why coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer, kidney cancer, and liver cancer. Note that the reduced risk is moderate. In addition, the same article did not show an association between coffee-drinking and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, or breast cancer. So while this is not medical advice, at least while drinking coffee, we can allay our fears that we are increasing our risk of developing cancer.



A couple of updates from Montclair: Alma Schneider of Take Back the Kitchen wrote the folks at Bialetti, who promptly sent her a new coffee pot (see post on Alma's coffee tragedy (March 4, 2009). Kudos to great customer service and a continuing coffee tradition in the Schneider-Saltzman household! Today was one of those bright blue beautiful May days. My daughter and I hung out at Starbucks on Church Street, watching all of the foot traffic coming from the shops and the gym (and working on homework). We marveled at the new brick pavers put in to demarcate the pedestrian cross-walks and we breathed deeply as the baristas ground the fresh coffee beans. She then asked me when she would start drinking coffee...the answer was challenging. All of the evidence points to the fact that students who drink coffee perform better in school---more to come on that in the future---but for now, as a kindergarten student, it is still too early. So I will model good, solid coffee-drinking habits for her, until she is old enough to make her own choices around coffee. To all of the coffee-drinking adults out there: Drink up and enjoy!