Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are mycotoxins ruining the health benefits of coffee? A fair-balance discussion

Does the coffee you drink every day have mycotoxins? Yes, according to researchers. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring mold toxins found in susceptible grains, nuts, beer, wines and coffees.  Their presence and concentrations depend on various conditions---humidity levels, temperature, rainfall and storage conditions.

 There are dozens of types of mycotoxins; however, regulators and health advocates are most concerned about ochratoxin A (OTA). OTA is naturally occurring and highly prevalent. Medical researchers have linked excess OTA exposure with liver cancer, renal failure and neurotoxicity that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease.

If every person on earth were tested for OTA, 100% of us would test positive. It’s not whether we are consuming OTA, but how much we are consuming. The OTA-in-coffee issue has stoked controversy and disagreement between those who are concerned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is too lax, and those who point to evidence (from Europe) showing that most commercial samples of coffee have only 2% to 3% of the level regarded as safe.

The coffee I am drinking is a popular commercial brand,
and it probably contains mycotoxins. Despite that, available
data leads me to believe that the benefits of drinking coffee
outweigh the risks of ochratoxin A exposure. 
 Also, we know that decaffeinated coffee has more OTA than caffeinated coffee, because caffeine protects coffee berries and beans from mycotoxin infestation. We also know that roasting helps decrease the amount of OTA---but it does not eliminate it.

The mycotoxins-in-coffee controversy has been growing since around 2000 when researchers started to publish their fndings. Widely different approaches to analytical batch testing have made it difficult to determine how much OTA is present and whether it exceeds regulatory guidelines.

After years of being maligned, coffee has undergone an image revolution. Instead of being publicly linked with breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and various types of psychological disorders, coffee has now been established as beneficial for many different organ systems.

However, recognition of coffee as something other than a helpful vice is relatively new. Historically, coffee has gotten a bad rap. At various times, coffee has been associated with cancer, infertility, “neurasthenia”, miscarriage, and heart attacks. In one memorable editorial published in Science Magazine in 1890, a researcher suggested that people who drank large amounts of coffee suffered from widespread bodily inflammation, had an intense aversion to work of any kind, and could die if denied coffee.


So the pendulum has swung from negative to positive in terms of the public perception of coffee, but the issue of mycotoxins and OTA is far from resolved. Researchers continue to refine OTA testing techniques while coffee growers and others involved in the business seek to optimize conditions to decrease the level of OTA in coffee---since it will most likely never be completely eliminated from the global coffee supply.  

On the upside, all of the positive research on coffee shows that benefits related to coffee consumption exist despite the problem of OTA contamination.  In fact, drinking coffee is associated with a decreased risk of liver cancer, AD and Parkinson’s disease---the three things that researchers have targeted as potential outcomes of OTA exposure.

You can be sure that at least some of the coffee you consume has traces of OTA, but you can also be sure that coffee is being more aggressively tested by regulators worldwide, and that coffee growers and others in the business are taking measures to decrease the threat of naturally occurring toxins in our beloved brew. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CRUSH your workout with coffee and stave off multiple sclerosis too...

Yesterday I was so excited to tell you about Mountie’s that I forgot to share the latest health benefit that I just discovered---a long-term benefit related to coffee’s neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory properties.

Drinking coffee over a period of years decreases the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease in which the immune system attacks the protective coating of the nerves. Total risk reduction based on two large-scale studies---one in the U.S. and the other in Sweden, is about 30%, but the magic number to attain that benefit is six cups of coffee a day.



The connection between coffee and MS makes sense, given the well-established connection between increased coffee consumption and decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Long-term benefits are great, but sometimes instant gratification is what we all want. You can instant benefits from drinking black coffee (no milk/no sugar), according to Men’s Fitness. Long story short: Coffee can help you CRUSH your workouts. How?

Studies show that drinking coffee before a workout not only revs you up to go longer, harder and stronger---but it also increases your metabolism, because the coffee prompts your body to rely on fat cells for energy, rather than glycogen, the body’s normal default source of energy.

Pre-workout coffee also decreases muscle soreness during weight training, so you can do more reps, with higher weights. The net effect of adding coffee to your workout is being more fit, and ultimately having a better body.

But I would argue that the long-term benefits of coffee are even more important than the short-term benefits, though they are all interrelated. The long-term benefits---decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, and of course, Parkinson’s and MS add up to something wonderful---a potentially longer, higher quality life.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Meet me for coffee at Mountie’s---this place has what it takes to make it in Montclair

Sunday, August 21, was a full-spectrum summer day: bright, hot sun in the morning, followed by an uncomfortable onslaught of humidity in the afternoon, until the sky opened and it rained. Then finally, we had a perfect summer evening, with a mellow post-rain vibe in the air, a cool breeze blowing and the anticipation of nighttime.

That was the context in which Mountie’s Eatery had their soft opening. My first impression was that this is a pleasant, clean, well-organized space, despite the fact that not all of the ingredients are in, and some of the final touches are still to come. That’s why it’s called a soft opening.



Mountie’s Eatery, which is named after the Montclair High School’s Montclair Mounties, looks like it could be a chain, but it’s not, according to the owner Sam, and his son, Omar. Sam owns a restaurant in Warren, NJ—the flagship location for his unique style of eatery---called Pita, Grill and Crepe. He also has several restaurants in Pennsylvania.

The basic concept behind Mountie's is savory plus sweet. It's the kind of place where you might order a chicken/spinach/hummus crepe for dinner, followed by baklava and Lacas Fair Trade coffee---a coffee that Sam says is "a quality coffee at a decent price."

Whatever happened to Manhattan Bagel?
The Manhattan Bagel Company, which formerly occupied the 250 Bellevue location, didn’t have a chance. It is a chain. There are better places in the neighborhood to get bagels---good, homemade, bagels and good coffee at locally owned shops. I refused to even walk in to M.B. It was empty most of the time. The only people who dared go in do not live in Montclair.

The fact that the franchiser had the chutzpah to roll in and open up shop right next to Java Love, a café that has been in town for about four years and just opened a location on Church Street, was insulting in and of itself. But in the end, it was poor judgment and doomed to fail.

Sam made a decision to name his new eatery “Mountie’s” as a nod to the community. “I did not want to directly compete with the established hummus/pita places in Montclair,” he said. “They have good offerings and we want to complement what’s available in the neighborhood,” he said.
Jackie’s Grillete, Falafel Hut and Four Seasons are all established and get plenty of foot traffic. You can see the bustle on their outdoor patios as people eat their falafel sandwiches happily. Mountie’s in contrast brings a different offering (and will also have outdoor seating).

Satisfying a needy palate with quality offerings
Of course, there are Mediterranean/Middle Eastern offerings at Mountie’s. They serve these things, along with lamb burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches on brioche with avocados, greens topped with apples, walnuts and veggies---and a fruit smoothie for your kid.

 There is fresh fruit in a large bowl, along with beautifully displayed baklava and little decorative jade lions adorning the counter.  And the main supporting column, which happens to be next to the coffee/drinks counter is a blackboard where kids (and adults) can doodle and draw and get creative any way they want to.

Mountie’s is actively engaging with customers as they come in, seeking feedback. Honestly, the quality of the food alone is enough to make people come back again, even though Mountie’s is clearly in ramp-up mode trying to get ready for the increased foot traffic that will come as temps cool down and people start to spend more time at the Bellevue Theater in the evening.

Some bonus offerings…
A couple of major bonuses worth mentioning: Mountie’s has wifi, two televisions hanging overhead (the television thing though me a bit admittedly…They will probably be off much of the time I suspect). And then of course, there’s the blackboard---and the location. Of course.  I predict that Mountie’s will be a wonderful place to sit, have a hot coffee and watch the leaves turning.

GO MOUNTIES!




Meet me for coffee at Mountie’s---this place has what it takes to make it in Montclair

Sunday, August 21, was a full-spectrum summer day: bright, hot sun in the morning, followed by an uncomfortable onslaught of humidity in the afternoon, until the sky opened and it rained. Then finally, we had a perfect summer evening, with a mellow post-rain vibe in the air, a cool breeze blowing and the anticipation of nighttime.

That was the context in which Mountie’s Eatery had their soft opening. My first impression was that this is a pleasant, clean, well-organized space, despite the fact that not all of the ingredients are in, and some of the final touches are still to come. That’s why it’s called a soft opening.



Mountie’s Eatery, which is named after the Montclair High School’s Montclair Mounties, looks like it could be a chain, but it’s not, according to the owner Sam, and his son, Omar. Sam owns a restaurant in Warren, NJ—the flagship location for his unique style of eatery---called Pita, Grill and Crepe. He also has several restaurants in Pennsylvania.

The basic concept behind Mountie's is savory plus sweet. It's the kind of place where you might order a chicken/spinach/hummus crepe for dinner, followed by baklava and Lacas Fair Trade coffee---a coffee that Sam says is "a quality coffee at a decent price."

Whatever happened to Manhattan Bagel?
The Manhattan Bagel Company, which formerly occupied the 250 Bellevue location, didn’t have a chance. It is a chain. There are better places in the neighborhood to get bagels---good, homemade, bagels and good coffee at locally owned shops. I refused to even walk in to M.B. It was empty most of the time. The only people who dared go in do not live in Montclair.

The fact that the franchiser had the chutzpah to roll in and open up shop right next to Java Love, a café that has been in town for about four years and just opened a location on Church Street, was insulting in and of itself. But in the end, it was poor judgment and doomed to fail.

Sam made a decision to name his new eatery “Mountie’s” as a nod to the community. “I did not want to directly compete with the established hummus/pita places in Montclair,” he said. “They have good offerings and we want to complement what’s available in the neighborhood,” he said.
Jackie’s Grillete, Falafel Hut and Four Seasons are all established and get plenty of foot traffic. You can see the bustle on their outdoor patios as people eat their falafel sandwiches happily. Mountie’s in contrast brings a different offering (and will also have outdoor seating).

Satisfying a needy palate with quality offerings
Of course, there are Mediterranean/Middle Easter pita-enclosed offerings at Mountie’s. They serve these things, along with lamb burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches on brioche with avocados, greens topped with apples, walnuts and veggies---and a fruit smoothie for your kid.
 There is fresh fruit in a large bowl on the counter, along with beautifully displayed baklava and little decorative jade lions adorning the counter.  And the main supporting column, which happens to be next to the coffee/drinks counter is a blackboard where kids (and adults) can doodle and draw and get creative any way they want to.

Mountie’s is actively engaging with customers as they come in, seeking feedback. Honestly, the quality of the food alone is enough to make people come back again, even though Mountie’s is clearly in ramp-up mode trying to get ready for the increased foot traffic that will come as temps cool down and people start to spend more time at the Bellevue Theater in the evening.

Some bonus offerings…
A couple of major bonuses worth mentioning: Mountie’s has wifi, two televisions hanging overhead (the television thing though me a bit admittedly…They will probably be off much of the time I suspect). And then of course, there’s the blackboard---and the location. Of course.  I predict that Mountie’s will be a wonderful place to sit, have a hot coffee and watch the leaves turning.

GO MOUNTIES!