Coffee, the staff of life. Where would we be without a morning cuppa? Still in bed, that's where.
Since coffee's introduction to the Arab world in the 12th century and to European society five centuries later, the drink has inspired thinkers, writers, artists, politicians... and scientists. Johann Sebastian Bach celebrated its virtues in the Coffee Cantata, written for a group of student-musicians who met at his favorite coffeehouse. Balzac enjoyed up to 50 cups a day of super-strength Turkish-style coffee, and sometimes resorted to chowing down on straight coffee grounds when he needed an additional caffeine blast. (The upside of this intemperate habit: he completed over 100 books in his lifetime. The downside: he had stomach cramps, high blood pressure and "hypertrophy of the left ventricle of the heart," all probably linked to his coffee jones, and may even have died from long-term caffeine poisoning.)
(Maybe I should start drinking 25 cups of coffee a day and plan on finishing a comparatively modest 50 books in my lifetime. Hmmm...)
Even in its first heyday, though, when the coffeehouses of Venice and Vienna were crowded with hopped-up intellectuals and the Schlagsahne flowed like water, there were those who failed to see the benefits of the drink:
Certainly our Countrymens pallates are become as Fantastical as their Brains; how ellse is't possible they should Apostatize from the good old primitive way of Ale-drinking, to run a whoring after such variety of distructive Foreign Liquors, to trifle away their time, scald their Chops, and spend their Money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous Puddle-water: Yet (as all Witches have their Charms) so this ugly Turkish Enchantress by certain Invisible Wyres attracts both Rich and Poor; so that those that have scarece Twopence to buy their Children Bread, must spend a penny each evening in this Insipid Stuff: Nor can we send one of our Husbands to Call a Midwife, or borrow a Glister-pipe, but he must stay an hour by the way drinking his two Dishes, & two Pipes.
--from "The Women's Petition Against Coffee, Representing to Publick Consideration the Grand Inconveniencies accruing to their Sex from the Excessive Use of that drying, Enfeebling Liquor.
Presented to the Right Honorable the Keepers of the Liberty of Venus," 1674
And now, in our enlightened scientific Starbuckified age, four new studies have been released in the last week both praising and damning coffee (or, more precisely, caffeine).
As every woman of child-bearing age has probably heard and commenced to freak out about by now, a new study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has concluded that even moderate caffeine consumption (about two cups of coffee a day) appeared to double women's risk for miscarriage. Scary stuff! Throw out the coffee pot, stat!
But of course, a second and larger study that found no increased miscarriage risk among women drinking two cups of coffee a day (and three or four cups before becoming pregnant) has gone virtually unreported in comparison. Also underreported: the fact that approximately 80% of miscarriages are the result of chromosomal abnormality, which has no relationship whatsoever to caffeine consumption.
Is caffeine bad for pregnant women? Many women will probably choose to err on the side of complete and total caution and abandon their morning cup of joe as soon as Aunt Flo misses her scheduled monthly appearance by even one day. This should bring the list of forbidden pleasures during pregnancy to... what, four hundred and seven? No soft cheese, no tuna, no sushi, no wine, no white flour, no rare steak, no roller coasters... heck, pretty soon we're just going to sidestep the warning labels and give up on getting pregnant altogether. (We know how well that turns out, don't we?)
Lest you think caffeine causes irrevocable harm to your lady bits, however, consider the conclusions of another study released this week. Apparently, caffeine consumption is linked to a lowered risk of ovarian cancer. So if your ovaries are all done popping out little growths, you can lessen their chance of producing further and more malignant growths by upping your daily coffee intake. Belly up to the counter, ladies!
Oh, and just as a bonus: swigging coffee on your daily power-walk may cut the risk of skin cancer. If you're a hairless mouse, anyway.
Me, I'm all done with the child-production assembly line... so I'm going to grab a double short half-skim latte, lace up my walking shoes and go prevent some cancer... and maybe trim my thighs while I'm at it. Yay science!
N.B.: When I was preggers with Fisher, I was scared by such evil books as "What To Eat While You're Expecting" into cutting out coffee altogether. The result, reliably: killer freakin' headaches that only augmented my morning-sickness woes. My doctor's advice: "Stop torturing yourself. Why would you give up coffee when you're already miserable?" Thoroughly enjoyed my caffeine mainline the next day, and every morning thereafter.
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