Thursday 23 June 2011

Coffee: our favourite drug

Mr. Colin Gregory Palmer Grey is a time management consultant working out of London, England. As well as his day job, he also produces on occasion short videos about different subjects. Today, I ran across his latest cinematic opus called "Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever". How could I resist? Ah, coffee, my favourite drink. And it would seem just about the favourite drink of a zillion other people as well. Who hasn't regretted not buying shares in Starbucks or Tim Horton's?

Of course, using the word "drug" along with the drink refers to its active ingredient, caffeine. Wikipedia writes:

The stimulant effect of coffee is due to its caffeine content. The caffeine content of a cup of coffee varies depending mainly on the brewing method, and also on the variety of bean. According to Bunker and McWilliams (J. Am. Diet. 74:28–32, 1979), coffee has the following caffeine content:

* brewed: 1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 80–135 mg.
* drip: 1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 115–175 mg.
* espresso: 1 shot (1.5–2 oz, 45–60 ml) = 100 mg

Red Bull has sometimes stirred up a bit of a controversy about its caffeine content; however it contains no more caffeine than coffee. A single can, the normal size, contains 80mg of caffeine (Wikipedia).

I add here about the pros and cons of this drink. Scientific studies have examined the relationship between coffee consumption and an array of medical conditions. Findings have been contradictory as to whether coffee has any specific health benefits, and results are similarly conflicting regarding the potentially harmful effects of coffee consumption.

The same Wikipedia article goes on about cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.:

Coffee consumption has been shown to have minimal or no impact, positive or negative, on cancer development; however, researchers involved in an ongoing 22-year study by the Harvard School of Public Health state that "the overall balance of risks and benefits [of coffee consumption] are on the side of benefits." For example, men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day were found to have a 20% reduction in developing prostate cancer. Other studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of being affected by Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout. A longitudinal study in 2009 showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee or tea (3–5 cups per day) at midlife were less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease in late-life compared with those who drank little coffee or avoided it altogether.

Uploaded by CGPGrey on Jun 22, 2011
Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever
[This short video offers a number of interesting facts about this most popular of beverages. Mr. Grey's web site has the complete script of the video which is reproduced below.]

The web site Just About Coffee says that coffee is:
* The second most widely used product in the world after oil.
* It was worth 6 million tonnes per year in the mid 90's.
* It is worth €30 billion per year to the producing countries.
* It is a living to more than 100 million people.
* It is consumed at the rate of 1400 million cups per day.
* The world's second most popular drink after water.

Coffee Facts from the Gourmet Coffee Zone adds:
Regarded as the largest retail coffee chain, with over 15,000 stores world wide, Starbucks actually sells more milk by volume than coffee. Starbucks has established a brand based on strong, bold dark-roasted coffees. Some even consider the roasting style over-done, pushing the respectable and popular dark-roast preference too far into the burnt category. While the milk products comprise the significant component in the Starbucks coffee drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, etc. ), perhaps another driver behind the volume of milk sold is a customer preference to tame or tone down the Starbucks over-roasted, strong and bold coffee profile.

Final Word


Wikipedia: Coffee
Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted seeds, called coffee beans, of the coffee plant. Coffee beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees in over 70 countries, cultivated primarily in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. 'Green Unroasted' coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Coffee can have a stimulating effect on humans due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world.

Wikipedia: Economics of coffee
Coffee is an important commodity and a popular beverage. Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day.] Over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries, while consumption happens mainly in the industrialized economies.

Wikipedia: Caffeine
Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid and psychoactive stimulant. Caffeine was first isolated from coffee in 1820 by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge and again in 1821 by French chemists Robiquet, Pelletier, and Caventou. Pelletier first coined the word "cafeine", which became the English word "caffeine".

Wikipedia: Health effects of caffeine
The health effects of caffeine have been extensively studied. Short term side effects such as headache, nausea, and anxiety have been shown as symptoms of mild caffeine consumption. The long term consequences of moderate caffeine consumption can be reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, hepatic diseases, and cardiovascular disease.

Colin Gregory Palmer Grey
[Mr. Grey is a Time Management consultant working out of London, England. He has an ebook called "30 Days to a More Organized Life".]

YouTube: CGPGrey's Channel
[As well as this video on Coffee, he seems to have put together a number of educational video speechs on a variety of topics

Grey's Blog: Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever

The Script (from the above video)

The world’s largest buyer of coffee, the US, has to import nearly all of this as the coffee trees from which caffeine is harvested will only grow at commercial levels between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn in an area called the coffee belt. Only a single state, Hawaii, is within the belt.

However, the United States is only the largest buyer because it’s so populous. The most enthusiastic coffee drinkers per capita are, in increasing order, the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and, the world champions, Finland, where they drink three times as much coffee a day as the average American. All of these countries are outside of the coffee belt and must import 100% of their caffeine supply.

To get this caffeine, first bees must pollinate the flowers of a coffee tree and these flowers develop into bright red berries. Unlike more cooperative domesticated plants, the coffee tree does not ripen all its berries at the same time so they need to be hand picked and sorted.

Once picked, the coffee bean is removed from inside the berry. This young seedling of the tree is then dried, heated, ground and submersed in boiling water to get out the precious, precious caffeine. It takes about 40 coffee beans to make one shot of espresso.

But why is caffeine in the coffee beans in the first place? It’s not like the coffee trees want to have humans cutting bits of them off and committing a holocaust of their offspring.

Well, the trees, of course, don’t want or feel anything and originally evolved caffeine for their own benefit. Caffeine is an insecticide that effectively paralyzes or kills bugs chomping on the tree.

Whether or not the insects go out experiencing the greatest caffeine high ever is not known.

While caffeine is technically lethal, it’s adapted for for 1g bugs, not monkeys 100,000 times more massive. So you’d really have to try to win this Darwin Award.

But, if you must: to calculate the dose of caffeine you’ll need to ingest to have a 50% of death, take your mass in kilograms and multiply it by 150mg.

Or in terms of coffee, for every kilogram of mass you have you need to drink one latte to get a visit from the grim reaper.

That’s a lot of coffee so it’s not surprising that there are no recored deaths in healthy adults from this method and it’s doubtful that it’s even possible. Because, while you’re busy getting the coffee in, your body is busy getting it out by one way or another.

The rare recorded deaths from caffeine are from diet pills, pep pills and crazy people who eat the drug in its pure form.

Poison though caffeine is, you do still develop addiction to the stuff. And it’s is a real physiological addiction not a wimpy psychological addition like people claim for videos games and the internet.

But caffeine isn’t heroine – rapid withdrawal won’t kill you – it might make you cranky and give you a wicked headache – but since caffeine releases dopamine to make you happy and it gets rid of headaches there’s really no reason to ever stop using it.

And who would want to give up the stuff anyway? I mean, aside from converts to Mormonism and Rastafarianism. Caffeine is the world’s most used psychoactive drug – and with good reason it’s pure awesome.

It increases concentration, decreases fatigue and gives you better memory.

This isn’t just a placebo – these are real effects replicable in a laboratory.

And, contrary to popular belief, drinking coffee isn’t a faustian bargain where the devil gives you the ability to work faster but in exchange makes your life shorter.

For normal, healthy humans there are no medical concerns. Coffee and the caffeine within it may even has medical benefits such as protection from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s.

Caffeine can even get rid of migraines, but the amount required and the and method of ingestion is… uncomfortable.

Moving right along…

You know what else you can thank caffeine for? A little thing called the enlightenment. In the 1600s people drank more beer and gin than water. But with the introduction of coffee and tea, people switched from a depressant to a stimulant. It’s not surprising then that this time was an intellectual boon compared to earlier centuries.

Ben Franklin and Edward Lloyd loved their coffee for the same reason that modern workers and students do. It’s invaluable for staying awake and concentrating when you need to finish a TPS report or to get through that boring physics class.

Coffee is the fuel of the modern world, so go grab a cup guilt-free and get working smarter and faster.


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

i'd be lost without my morning coffee