Periodically I like to justify my coffee habit by writing about the vital brew, and this Monday morning seems as good a time as any to share some musings.
It made Civil War soldiers more alert and ready
In the splendid Soldiers Blue & Gray (1988), historian James I. Robertson quotes Union surgeon A.C. Swartwelder on the benefits of coffee:
“I am thoroughly convinced that a pint of good coffee is a better beverage for the soldier than all the rye, bourbon, brandy…or any alcoholic nostrum that ever flowed from a worm…. It has no equal as a preparation for a hard day’s march, nor any rival as a restorative after one.”
However, observes Robertson, Southern troops rarely had adequate supplies of coffee, thanks to the effectiveness of a Union blockade. All too often they had to make do with ersatz coffee “brewed from peanuts, potatoes, peas, corn, and rye.” Yikers.
The Union, of course, won the Civil War. Just sayin’.
But can it kill you?
Michael Kelley reports for Business Insider on a Mayo Clinic study that found drinking more than four cups a day may be hazardous to your (er, my) health:
People under 55 who drink an average of more than than four cups of coffee a day raise the risk of dying from all causes, according to a study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Researchers led by Steven Blair at the University of South Carolina found that people aged under 55 who drank more than 28 cups a week saw a 56% increase in death from all causes.
However, the authors of the study acknowledge they don’t know why this is so, noting that risk factors associated with heavy coffee consumption, such as cigarette and alcohol use, poor diet, and less sleep, may be at play. (Or being a Civil War soldier. See above.)
Personally, I prefer this study
Alexander Abad-Santos, blogging for The Atlantic, responds to news of the Mayo study by citing last year’s National Institutes of Health findings:
It was just last year that the National Institutes of Health told us that coffee was a life-extender. The Atlantic‘s Brian Fung (now at WaPo) explained that the doctors and researchers at the NIH found (what appears to be) conflicting information:
According to research published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who drank four or five cups of coffee a day tended to live longer than those who drank only a cup or less. The benefit was more pronounced for women, but men also stand to gain somewhat from pounding joe.
Coffee-drinking men cut their risk for death by 12 percent after four to five cups of java, according to the study, which was led by the National Institutes of Health’s Neal Freedman. Women who drank the same amount had their the risk of death reduced by 16 percent.
The sounds of coffee
You know the whole deal about writers and coffee houses? Well, it may involve more than just a desire to channel one’s inner Hemingway…
Consider Coffitivity, a neat little site where you can play and download the sounds of a coffee house. The rationale? The Coffitivity folks link to research indicating that an ideal level of ambient noise can actually enable, rather than detract from, our productivity. They say that “the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing.”
I was alerted to Coffitivity by industrial/organizational psychology professor Kathleen Rospenda (Illinois-Chicago), who responded to my recent Facebook post pondering why noises in libraries distract me, while noises in cafes help me stay on task. I don’t know if Kathy discovered the site as part of her scholarly research agenda, but citing her credentials gives this blog piece more street cred.