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The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like (theatlantic.com)
88 points by alexpopescu 1695 days ago | hide | past | web | 92 comments | favorite



Or for Pete's sake...

What I tell patients is, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink as much as you want and can," says Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University. He's even developed a metric for monitoring your dosage: If you are having trouble sleeping, cut back on your last cup of the day. From there, he says, "If you drink that much, it's not going to do you any harm, and it might actually help you. A lot.

What else can you expect from an "institute" with a name like this?

And, surely enough, a little more digging brings this:

Nashville's Vanderbilt University is to establish an Institute for Coffee Studies this fall, funded by $6 million from the Brazilian Coffee Association and other coffee-growing organizations.

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v5/n3/full/nm0399_252b.html


That was a rather selective quote, given that the same article says this just a paragraph down:

Institute director, Peter Martin, stresses that his research group wants to maintain "arms length" from the coffee industry for ethical reasons. "We are setting up a foundation to oversee the funds which will be administered by independent scientific directors to ensure that there isn't even an appearance of conflict of interest," he insists.

In addition, the original article described a wide variety of studies done by many different institutions. I suppose it's possible that they're all just "studies" conducted by people in the pay of the nefarious coffee lobby, but we probably shouldn't start resorting to conspiracy theories without a little evidence.


The described articles may be impeccable, but selected because they agree with whatever viewpoint an institute wants to present. It's possible they've ignored anything not agreeing with them. And it's probable that groups do research that isn't published when it doesn't agree with whoever's funding it.

Ben Goldacre's book (pro science, about flaws in current system of research and science reporting) "Bad Science" is w useful read.


Except the articles selected where in the pro-coffee camp, the articles against coffee were not selected. This is called selection bias. I'd take what this guy has to say with a grain of salt.


" ... to ensure that there isn't even an appearance of conflict of interest ..."

Too late for that.


For the institute you have a situation where there's an institution regarded as objective and credible and someone who has a vested interest in the outcome donating money. This happens all the time. There's some form of regulatory capture in any industry, even if the regulation is something like "a general consensus among certain people that everyone in the industry respects that something is or isn't ok."

Like in government, sometimes there is quid pro quo and sometimes there isn't, but I've never heard anyone come out and say, "Whoops, you caught us! We're totally taking money to sway our opinion!"

The breadth of studies makes this look pretty legit. I just don't put much faith in obligatory denials.


>Or for Pete's sake...

Why do we assume that the Coffee Association is promoting bad science for their interests, rather than finding scientists who are working on things that relate to their business, and supporting those works?

Who else is going to fund coffee studies besides people with an interest (and money) to fund it? This is how the free market works; as long as the science is sound, who cares who is behind it? I'd rather the coffee industry pay for the studies from excess profits than it coming from the public coffers. It's not perfect, but it isn't full on corruption, either.


>>Why do we assume that the Coffee Association is promoting bad science for their interests, rather than finding scientists who are working on things that relate to their business, and supporting those works?

This is the exact equivalent of the coal industry finding the minority of scientists who think climate change is not man-made and funding their studies. The problem with this is obvious, and it is not good science.

>>This is how the free market works; as long as the science is sound, who cares who is behind it?

Often times, those who are funding the science have an impact on whether that science is sound. It's called a conflict of interest because the source of the funding can corrupt the motivation of the scientist to practice good science.


> This is the exact equivalent of the coal industry finding the minority of scientists who think climate change is not man-made and funding their studies.

No it isn't. This isn't about coal or climate change. It's about whether or not it's ok for people to drink coffee.

If you think they've published bad science you should prove it. That's the awesome thing about science, it's refutable.


Not as easy as that: the coffee industry can easily spend $6 million to promote its interests, but there isn't an "anti-coffee" industry that can spend $6 million to refute those studies. This principle of "organizability" is one of the big drivers of political power -- those who can organize into an interest group win.


In this case, the article is clearly a piece that's advocating coffee drinking. When research crosses over from "setting up and experiment and proving/ disproving a hypothesis" to "advocating something as good or not good in general", its important to look at the source of funding and apply a heavy discount on the validity of the research if its advocating "for the money".

This is not research "related" to coffee, so your hypothesis is not valid in this instance.


Congratulations, you've just discovered one reason why the free market isn't the best system to organise basic science research.


I am wondering how much of the world's (biased) research is being done by the special interest groups. As someone said (not sure who) "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"


John Updike, I think.


John Updike = Pennsylvania Dutch, funny accents, psychology of the middle class

Upton Sinclair = Chicago stockyards, abuse of animals and immigrants


Whoops! Up-something, anyway. ;)


Upton Sinclair


Ad hominem much?

Anyway, the article doesn't rest on that quote by a long shot, it goes on in enormously satisfying detail. It's a humanizing lead-in, at best. I think this is a great summary of recent research on the effects of coffee and caffeine, and it links to supporting studies on nearly every substantial point.


Huh? That's not an ad-hominem. That's simply pointing out a conflict of interest.


Pointing out a conflict of interest, by itself, is indeed an ad hominem. Whether someone has a conflict of interest or not has nothing to do with their argument being right or wrong. It only indicates that they might be willing to put forth their argument without exploring any supporting evidence (or willfully ignoring it). Besides, in this case, I personally think that is very unlikely.


Except that it does. Regardless of the ethos of a scientist, when a scientist sets out to research with a certain goal, "the positive effects of drinking coffee", the only case in which the result would be unfavourable to coffee would be when coffee has no positive effects whatsoever. This is as shown obviously not the case.

When you research "the effects of drinking coffee" it seems as though you are more neutral, but in fact there is still room for bias. Will you find every single effect of drinking coffee? How will you decide wether they are positive or negative? how will you decide the importance of these effects? Which effects will you research in more detail?

This weighing and ordering depends in part on the researcher, who will have a bias.

Ofcourse this is not a problem when there are lots of researchers all with their own biases, together they will paint a full picture. But if you only fund those researchers who have the kind of bias you like, then that full picture might be skewed (this is called publication bias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publication_bias).

In this case people worry if the coffee research institute has hired biased researchers, rewards only the researchers who publish good things about coffee or even publishes selectively.

So it is a good thing to point out. And the argument is an attack on the reliability of the fundament for the argument, not necessarily on the researcher.


> Ad hominem

'Ad hominem' is a fallacy of relevance, meaning it involves dragging irrelevant information into the discussion to sway emotions. How is the source of the study's funding irrelevant?


Ad hominem (technically) means argument 'against the person', not the argument (of the person).[1] A personal conflict of interest may raise issues about motive/integrity. Example: an argument pre-texted because of hidden/ special interests (particular to that person).

tldr: Ad hominem != per-se fallacy.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem


Maybe you aren't familiar with Vandy but I assure you - they are a highly respected university in the US. There is zero chance - none - that Vanderbilt University is creating a shadow puppet institute.

My brother and sis, who both went there, love to point out that it is called "The Harvard of the South"


Do you have any idea--any notion at all--how respected is the football program at Penn State? Why, the mere suggestion of any impropriety is such a laughable proposition that my vest-buttons threaten violent detachment.


Red herring. If Penn State coaches had bet on the games, that might be applicable.


It is amazing that you're seemingly willing to stake your reputation that there's no possibility of a conflict of interest at an institution you're only distantly associated with. But, how serious are you? What odds will you give me that at least one conflict of interest scandal shows up at Vandy over the next, say, 30 years?


It's not a binary proposition. You can have puppet institute and you can have a completely independent one. Usually you'll get something in between. I don't think that Vanderbilt's quality has a lot to do with it.

This next bit may be a bit cynical:

Even if they weren't funded by the coffee industry, however, they would have existential issues. If their whole purpose is to study coffee then I think that there will be a tendency to either promote coffee or to try to strike a balance. The latter is almost as bad as the former.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they would have no problem publishing nothing about negative results if that was what they got, but I would bet against it. If they get a string of negative results (and don't lose their funding), they are going to start looking for studies that have a more potential upside to balance things out.


Did you mean to to type 'oh for Peet's sake?'


My hobby is weightlifing. About 3 weeks out from a competition I systematically wean myself off caffeine by substituting more and more decaf into my regular coffee until I'm purely on decaf.

Why? Two reasons.

The first is tolerance. Caffeine tolerance reduces the sense of freshness, alertness, energy etc that coffee gives for any given dose. But tolerance isn't a linear function for all the effects of caffeeine.

The practical upshot is that, on competition day, I wind up needing more caffeine than usual to give me the extra pep to really perform well. But if I'm already tolerant to caffeine, my "pep" dose will be high enough to cause sweaty hands and to degrade my motor control -- in my case my grip becomes weaker and my pulls are not as crisp. Olympic-style weightlifting is a precision sport; I can't afford that.

Whereas, if I've weaned myself off caffeine over the preceding weeks, there's been adenosine re-regulation and I've become more sensitised to it again. So I can get all the pep and energy to push through a competition (it can be very draining with all the warm up lifts) without the sweaty hands or weaker grip or less accurate pulling technique.

The second reason to wean myself is that going cold turkey is absolute hell.

One rule I observe these days is that I don't consume caffeine after 1pm. I can't get to sleep otherwise. In practice this means two cups a day: one when I wake up, one before or during lunch. Even after the noticeable effects of caffeine have faded, it has enough of a half life to make it difficult to fall asleep in a timely fashion. Then you get stuck in the caffeine-sleeplessness-caffeine feedback loop. Worth avoiding.


The biggest issue for me is that I respond very negatively to caffeine withdrawal (I get extremely cranky and it often triggers a migraine). What keeps me from drinking more is that I don't want a missed dose to ruin my whole day.

Second biggest issue is that I tend to get hypoglycemic an hour or so later if I don't have a carby snack at the same time.

A cup a day (with a cup of tea in the morning) is the best balance of enjoyment versus drawbacks that I've found. If I want more I brew up a cup of decaf.

Also I find an Aeropress is easy enough to be convenient but not so easy as to trigger overconsumption (Cf. K-Cup). It doesn't hurt that it makes a great cup of coffee.


Yeah, I get a headache when miss my dose. I have a variable schedule which causes that to happen about every other week so I've stopped drinking tea or coffee on any kind of regular basis. Now I only drink some when I need it and usually not more than once a week.

When you don't drink it all the time even a small cup goes a really long way, at least for me.


I'm the same. I once tried going cold turkey from four cups a day and my headaches were so bad I was useless for three days before I gave up and started drinking coffee again.

Today I'm still at about four cups a day. Similar to you, I use a Chemex instead of an automatic machine to slow my consumption.


I went cold turkey a couple months ago because I didn't like the afternoon headache and general feeling of uselessness that I'd suffer on days when it wasn't practical to get coffee. Nor was it pleasant to live with the very fact of a chemical dependency... I'm not quite as sharp in the morning on just chamomile, but afternoons and sleep are much improved.


This makes me happy, because boy howdy do I go through a lot of it.

It's worth noting, though, that what you put into coffee may not be so good for you. I sat down and did the math and realized that I was taking in almost 1500 calories/day in milk and sugar that I put in my coffee. I've since switched to drinking it black or with just a bit of skim milk (to cool it - the first cup out of a french press is scalding!), and have lost a significant amount of weight just from that change alone.


Yeah that's an important point, also mentioned in the article. It also mentions coffee that is designed to smell like "seasonal celebrations", ie pumpkin spiced latte and similar. We have to distinguish between coffee and dessert-in-disguise.


Well, all of those flavored lattes are done with sugary syrup. You can still flavor your coffee without sugar. Things like raw cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc. (maybe vanilla extract too, but I'm not sure how much sugar that might have on its own)


Cardamom in coffee is quite tasty. It gives some of the flavor of Turkish coffee without all the viscosity.


>dessert-in-disguise.

Double espresso with a dash of Baileys.. mmm..


off-topic, but it's almost December.

I just came across a recipe for freezing coffee in ice cube trays, and then putting it in with Baileys and vanilla vodka.

This sounds like a winner for the annual "It's a Wonderful Life" every time they say George Bailey drinking game.


Like many, I started drinking coffee partway through college and continued enjoying it when I started working. However I started noticing it triggered some pretty bad anxiety and muscular tension and made me extremely moody. I stopped for a while.

I finally found some excellent decaf (Ethiopian Sidamo at Zombie Runner [1] in Palo Alto), so I can continue indulging the habit.

[1] http://www.zombierunner.com/store/categories/cafe_zombie/cof...


This was exactly my experience.

It seemed to take a few months for my body to transition off caffeine. I recommend switching to tea for the first couple of weeks, since that'll at least prevent the terrible headaches.

I definitely feel healthier for quitting the habit, though I still miss "real" coffee sometimes. :(


It was 'just' a solid week of bad sleep, horrendous headaches and night sweats for me when stopping.

Frightening to think of those withdrawl symptoms for such a seemingly innocuous drug.


I once did an experiment and went completely caffeine free.

First three days I was sleepy, then I recovered to exactly the same productivity level.

Then I decided to make me more productive and drunk a 0.25 Adrenaline Rush. My symptoms were nothing less than caffeine overdose.

I wanted to work but was unable to do anything because of total lack of focus. So I wanted to sleep and unable to sleep because fo hyperalertness. Then I wanted to work because I cannot sleep, etc. The cycle lasted for six hours at least and it was very unpleasant. I was even unable to read!

Right now I take a long walk after work if I want to be really productive next day.


I'm going the last 5 days w/o coffee and felt no difference at all regarding anxiety, focus, sleep & headaches. I normally drank 3 cups in the morning (200ml each I'd guess) and 3 after lunch.


Caffeine sensitivity is highly variable between individuals. I am both sensitive and a slow metabolizer; if I had 6 cups of coffee in one day my guts would be churning and I would not be able to get anything done.


I second on the "moody". I've never seen it written about, but, even apart from alertness, caffeine makes me extremely emotional. Bouncing happy to sad in ways I otherwise wouldn't. And at high levels, I blaze with inspiration... with ideas that all turn out to be garbage on later review.


Try combining it with L-Theanine supplements.. Completely removes the tension effects for me.


Yeah I can't imagine being permanently high on a drug being bad for you...this study funded by the Institute for Coffee Studies is probably right, everyone should take more of this drug!


I agree that being permanently high (and thus being out of touch with the body and with emotions) is unhealthy -- however, perhaps some drugs are less unhealthy than others.

[from the article]

>That there were no major differences in risk reduction between regular and decaf coffee suggests there's something in it, aside from its caffeine content, that could be contributing to these observed benefits

It could merely be that people who drink coffee eat less food, and that food is a less healthy drug


"and thus ..." : I actually sometimes find that being high puts me more in touch with body and emotions .. shrug


Oh I agree. In vino veritas. But 'permanently high' is different: it isn't really a high at all.


So your argument is that these people are actually having a more healthy diet by eating less food and drinking more drugs? Did you think out this point before making it?


That doesn't seem impossible. What's the baseline for the food and the coffee? A lot of people's diet these days would be healthier simply by eating less of everything.


I've never heard of anyone referring to consuming caffeine as getting "high." That sounds melodramatic.


Anecdotally, this seems like pretty reckless advice, and I'm a caffeine junkie.

Don't get me wrong, it's clearly not crystal meth, but Caffeine overdoses are real and can be dangerous, especially in a situation where you are drinking a boatload of coffee. I'm sure I'm not the only person on this board that has had some minor heart palpitations during an all-nighter after one too many coffees or Coke Zeros.


Caffeine overdoses are quite difficult to actually achieve[1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#Caffeine_intoxication


Yep, I've read all about clinical definitions of caffeine intoxication, and its relative rarity isolated from any other factors.

I guess I was a little sloppy in labeling what I'm talking about a "caffeine overdose", although I think what I described happening to me (heart palpatations, dizziness) probably happens much more often than physicians are aware of, and could be classified as a minor caffeine overdose. Most people logically conclude they've had too much coffee and too little sleep, and just drink some water and go to bed like I did. They don't go to the hospital over it.

What I'm really saying is that people who consume massive amounts of coffee are usually trying to compensate for exhaustion or sleep deprivation. In fact, there's sort of a feedback loop, where massive amounts of caffeine make restful sleep much more difficult, which then leads to more caffeine consumption and possibly to a downward spiral in health. Studies have shown that a perfectly healthy person lacking in sleep is in sort of a pre-diabetic state already, so when you pile on massive amounts of stimulants at the same time, it's clearly bad for the heart. It won't lead to you being declared DOA of a caffeine overdose, but it could exacerbate heart disease, or help its onset, or even cause a heart attack.

Don't get me wrong, as I mentioned I'm a huge caffeine addict. I drink Coke Zero by the gallon. However, the picture the author is painting that massive ingestion of caffeine is consequence free is simply not accurate, and in fact dangerous.


There's overdosing (to the point where you risk it being lethal) and then there's general ill effects. Even as someone very light (OD dosage is based on your weight, unsurprisingly[1]), it would require me to take multiple caffeine pills before I'd have to potentially go to the hospital: I simply couldn't do it through coffee alone - it's just too much liquid to consume in too short a time. Even with crazy-strong coffee (250+mg/cup) I'd need to drink 30+ [2] cups.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that drinking a dozen cups of coffee by lunchtime will have some pretty interesting results. You'll feel your heart racing and probably experience something like extreme ADD. Probably headaches, nausea, crazy jitters. The severity depends on your tolerance to caffeine, of course. I get nasty headaches 6-8 hours after waking if I don't get my morning coffee, so it takes me quite a lot to get into overdose land.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#Caffeine_intoxication [2] ~150mg/kg for LD50; I weigh about 50kg


Yep, clarified a bit below in my response to nickkthequick that I was talking more about my personal experiences with what I would call minor caffeine overdoses, not the clinical definition of caffeine intoxication. My main point is that the notion that massive amounts of caffeine injestion is consequence free, especially as it's usually paired with sleep deprivation, is laughable.


The effect of electrolyte imbalance or dehydration would occur way before caffeine "toxicity". I speak from experience.


The article is about coffee, not caffeine.


Nope, the author uses coffee and caffeine pretty interchangeably, and probably refers to caffeine more than coffee. It's clearly about both, although there is a brief mention of some of the purported additional health benefits of coffee that caffeine might not be responsible for.


> The past couple of years have seen findings, that, taken together, suggest that we should embrace coffee for reasons beyond the benefits of caffeine, and that we might go so far as to consider it a nutrient.

That's the gist of the article.


Plus two older HN threads:

1. Ask HN: How much coffee do you drink?: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4606007

2. Ask HN: Coffee Drinkers, How Do You Brew? http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4408221


Coffee just makes me need to shit a lot more.


This is rarely (if ever) mentioned in all these articles claiming that coffee is so beneficial. I drink a fair amount of coffee and try to cut back frequently because of this issue. It isn't just that coffee makes me crap more, it degrades the...qualify of the crap. Am I alone here? Seems like it can't be good for me.


I agree with you that the frequency of my shitting goes up while the quality goes down, although I was amused when I came across this line:

> That same high dosage is also effective in fighting against colorectal cancer

I do have to wonder if it's not a primary effect of anything in the coffee, but rather a byproduct of the secondary effects.


Frankly, as someone who probably doesn't eat as much fiber as I should and who sits far too long all day, this is just another added benefit. Gotta keep moving.


I've actually found that one cup of a specific type of coffee, namely instant coffee, drank immediately after breakfast, nearly always guarantees a bowel movement.

I've actually found it to be extremely useful part of my daily routine and when I need to break the routine for whatever reason (I live nomadically so my routines are always changing), my whole day is usually a lot more uncomfortable (i.e., my digestive system and bowls feel slower).

I still haven't identified how all this works, but it's an interesting anecdote.


>I still haven't identified how all this works, but it's an interesting anecdote

Coffee acts as a laxative. Interestingly, this effect is observed in decaf as well.

Source: Boekema PJ, Samsom M, et al. Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1999;230:35-9. PMID 10499460

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10499460


I drink at about 8 8 oz cups of coffee a day during the week plus a couple cans of soda. I also poop once a day, withing 45 minutes of 4:30pm. I am scared of what the implications would be if I stopped consuming so much caffeine


Sheldon Cooper, is that you?


Impossible. He doesn't drink coffee.


I can't put in to words how much better I feel, and sleep, since switching to decaffeinated[1] coffee.

1. You still get some caffeine; decaf is about 5% of the caffeine of normal coffee.


...or switch to high-quality green tea, which has trace amounts of caffeine— enough to maintain sufficient alertness in the morning, I've found.


Epidemiologically, coffee consumption (even up to >6 cups/day) does not appear to be associated with risk for heart attack.[1] This is a large cohort study (128,000 people). Obvious limitations include the fact that the coffee intake assessment was via a questionnaire administered every few years, and that it's a cohort study and not an RCT.

I understand that there may in fact be organs in the human body that are not the heart, but when I hear people talking about caffeine risk, they generally seem to be referring to heart disease, so that's the kind of article I pubmed'ed.

1) http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/113/17/2045.long


Misguided. For some people, Coffee is probably okay. But I have noticed that after drinking it for a few days, I suffer from general exhaustion, and I don't think I am alone. There is also some research that in some individuals, coffee can affect adrenal function. I think the key is to be mindful about usage of any substance; with respect to our person and how we feel, we can sometimes be the best scientist.


Rule of thumb: Never trust a study funded by someone who would benefit directly from a certain result. It doesn't matter how sound the science seems.


I'm gonna call BS on this. Hiatal hernia's are frequently associated with over consumption of coffee, which has other effects on the heart, esophageal and stomach lining. Anecdotally, an alarming amount of heavy coffee drinkers also seem to be taking maintenance prescription antacids, Nexium, etc. None of which are intended for long term use as they deplete Vitamin B12, among other issues.


> says Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University.

The director who is paid to study coffee says that coffee is good for you. I am shocked, shocked, I tell you!


According to Dave Asprey (self-described biohacker), you should drink good coffee but never drink decaf: http://www.bulletproofexec.com/coffee-5-reasons-you-can-perf...

If you are adventurous, you should try his "bulletproof coffee" (high quality coffee with butter, but there's more to it - you can find details on his website). Butter is also good for you. Really.


I'm not saying this to be mean, but I think it's important to point out that Dave Asprey is a quack, and his "Upgraded Coffee" is snake oil. Asprey is happy to cherry-pick studies to support his products, but the fact is that there is simply no good reason to believe that mycotoxin levels in ordinary coffee are high enough to have any measurable effect on humans who drink it. (And if you look carefully at his citations, you'll notice that he does not bridge that crucial gap between "mycotoxins are bad for you" and "my coffee has lower mycotoxin content").

This guy's combination of scientific literacy and alarmingly poor reasoning really makes me nauseous, because I can't simply write it off as mere incompetence. For instance, look at this infographic: http://www.bulletproofexec.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Bu... . Specifically, look at the part comparing 1910 and 2000. That's not just a case of spurious correlation. It's like something I would make up as a wacky example of spurious correlation.


Well, you may call him what you want, and yes, he is not right about everything.

> you'll notice that he does not bridge that crucial gap between "mycotoxins are bad for you" and "my coffee has lower mycotoxin content"

I'm not sure which gap you think needs to be bridged here?

> Specifically, look at the part comparing 1910 and 2000. That's not just a case of spurious correlation. It's like something I would make up as a wacky example of spurious correlation.

I'm not sure what you're reading into this. When I look at it, I don't think "butter protects against heart problems" (which seems to be your interpretation, and I agree cannot be concluded from this data, not even remotely), but rather "butter can't be the evil it is made to be, as this statistic shows". Which is perfectly reasonable.

The thing about the QS movement, and people like Asprey, Roberts and Ferris, is that they offer very cheap experiments with easily measurable outcome, so you don't have to wait for a 30-year double blinded test that is blessed by anyone.

I've tried several things they recommend, and the vast majority of the practice checks out (regardless of the theory behind it).

I haven't tried his coffee, but I did start putting butter in my Lavazza coffee, and as a result lost weight and am feeling much better. You don't have to be a "believer" to try and see if things work for you. I don't think he's right about everything, but a lot of the counterintuitive things him (and Ferris, and Roberts) suggest actually work.


>I'm not sure which gap you think needs to be bridged here?

I said it explicitly: "there is simply no good reason to believe that mycotoxin levels in ordinary coffee are high enough to have any measurable effect on humans who drink it."

>When I look at it, I don't think "butter protects against heart problems" (which seems to be your interpretation, and I agree cannot be concluded from this data, not even remotely), but rather "butter can't be the evil it is made to be, as this statistic shows". Which is perfectly reasonable.

It isn't perfectly reasonable. Life expectancy in 1910 was 48 for men, and 51 for women. The average age for heart attacks today is 66 for and 70 for women. Some, but not all of that is infant mortality, yes, but the fact is that if people in 1910 had less heart disease than people today, it is likely largely because people in 1910 often didn't long enough for heart disease to become a problem.

And that's just one factor that the comparison fails to control for. The way people lived and ate in 1910 was completely different from the way people lived and ate in 2000, and it is quite likely that those changes simply overwhelm the change with respect to one particular kind of saturated fat. That doesn't mean that butter fat is harmless. It just means that you can't see the harm if you also change everything else.

As a side note, where are these statistics about heart disease in 1910 coming from? We get the top-level URL for dietheartpublishing.com (which is low on data, high on sensationalist paleo-quackery), but no link to specific data. Are we relying on what doctors were able to diagnose in 1910? Because that's a whole other level of flawed.

>I've tried several things they recommend, and the vast majority of the practice checks out (regardless of the theory behind it).

What you think you've experienced through personal trials is not significant evidence.


> "there is simply no good reason to believe that mycotoxin levels in ordinary coffee are high enough to have any measurable effect on humans who drink it."

I don't keep the links handy, but a one second google brings up this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16284846 and a tens of other references. Coffee was not studied as extensively as far as I know, but if you have reason to believe that it is better protected than wheat and maize, please let me know why. The only non-asprey link about coffee toxin studies I could find is a single article from the 1980 that says "I looked, I didn't find, I stopped looking".

> Some, but not all of that is infant mortality, yes, but the fact is that if people in 1910 had less heart disease than people today, it is likely largely because people in 1910 often didn't long enough for heart disease to become a problem.

Well, in 1860-1910, US white infant mortality rate was coming down from 21% to 10% (with black mortality rate, when documented, being 50% higher than the white one). I don't know if that data is included in the "1910 life expectancy", but it is likely that it is. In Italy, it was going down from 25% to 13% over the same period. That's enough to make the "48/51" lifespan you quote meaningless (sources I found say 54, but whatever). http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/haines.demography

If you consider "life expectancy of anyone aged > 4", then all of a sudden 50 years jumps to 62 years; and if you consider "life expectancy of anyone aged > 20", then it will surely increase the 1910 number to 70 or more, while hardly nudging today's numbers. I agree that his statistic is not conclusive in any way, but your interpretation is not valid either.

> That doesn't mean that butter fat is harmless. It just means that you can't see the harm if you also change everything else.

That is true. And yet, there is virtually no direct evidence of harm from butter than I can find. (Neither is there from cholesterol intake, for that matter - or salt intake, with the exception of a well defined 20% of the population - that is, if you're not in those 20%, there is no evidence of salt harm).

> Are we relying on what doctors were able to diagnose in 1910? Because that's a whole other level of flawed.

Yes, that's true. But that throws away any study done before the early 1990s - which is also flawed. We're damned if we do, damned if we don't, and everyone gets to pick their own favourite data and interpretation.

> What you think you've experienced through personal trials is not significant evidence.

What I discovered is significant for my daily life, is significant for my daily life (duh, it's a tautology). I'm not saying you should believe it because it worked for me. I'm saying you should try and figure what works for you.

FWIW, my ex was a medical doctor and I regularly read BMJ and NEMJ for a while. That was before Ionnadis's paper, but I remember thinking back then that 70% of what was published was statistically invalid.

Much of what is considered significant evidence in medicine and health today, is not significant evidence. If the experiment is simple and cheap enough, you should do it yourself.


>I'm saying you should try and figure what works for you.

And I'm saying that that's the same mantra that homeopaths, chiropractors and other peddlers of pseudoscience repeat. "Figure out what works for you" has implications dangerously close to relativism. To find out what works, you need science. "Try it yourself" isn't science.


I feel sorry for you, really.

I figured out that wheat is bad for me. As in, I've stopped taking in wheat (much harder than it sounds, because it's used as a filler in just about everything), upped my overall caloric intake (mostly coconut fat and butter), and lost 30 pounds in a month feeling much much better. As in, better than in years. That happened 24 months ago, and it stayed off.

My doctor, seeing it, said it was impossible - because every test HE had at his disposal said I did not have a wheat allergy (or intolerance, or whatever other variations of "bad for you" medicine has).

If you claim that losing 30 pounds in one month and it staying off for two years since is placebo, I'm going to laugh at you, and so will everyone else who actually has a brain and is not religiously following some mantras.

A friend of mine is allergic to peppers of any kind. Not deathly allergic, but excruciating-pain allergic. 20 years ago or so, it was not a standard diagnosis, and some doctors therefore suggested it was psychosomatic (because apparently, that was the only "scientific" explanation). Whatever it is she has, has since become a standard diagnosis (she's missing an enzyme, and it is a recessive genetic trait). Are you seriously claiming that she should have eaten peppers all these years because her self diagnosis was "not scientific"? I would give you the benefit of doubt that you do not, although your response indicates otherwise.

The "science" you talk about is a religion, and if you refrain from self experimenting because "it is not science", then you are a religious zealot. Physics is science; Chemistry is science; Nutrition and Medicine are religions that are controlled by politics and money, that are informed by science, but are definitely not following it.

Yes, science is a great thing. It's hardly related to modern nutrition, and missing from some areas of modern medicine.

Doctors and nutritionists have been claiming for years that salt is bad for you, and dietary cholesterol is too (to the point that you should limit e.g. eggs to no more than two a week). If you can find scientific evidence anywhere that, say, 25 eggs/day, is not healthy, then please show it. Because no one I know is aware of any. Or any evidence for calorie balance (carb=4kcal/g, fiber=0kcal/g, ...) theory for that matter. Add nutrition experts and "MDs" to your list of homeopaths and other pseudoscience peddlers - they're only better on the average because their pool of (mandated!) beliefs is culled more often -- but definitely not often enough to give it the halo of science that you assume it has.


>I feel sorry for you, really.

After reading your comment, I assure you that the feeling is mutual.


Yes, butter (I think he recommends two thirds of a stick!) and something called MCT oil.


Dave Asprey is certainly a quack but there is some evidence butter may be pretty good for you. Look up butyrate - which milk fat helps produce in your body (if you have healthy gut flora).


This is just stupid. Caffeine should either be consumed in moderation or not at all.




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