Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part II: Coffee

-Marissa Tomko

There was one dark spot in my otherwise bright and sunny morning today—and I liked it. It sucked me in as I sleepily stumbled down my stairs toward its bitter lure, welcoming the way in which its steam burned my face. Black as night, I consumed it: my morning cup (or should I say pot) of coffee.

Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in the thirteenth century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. As the story goes, he noticed that his goats were especially energetic after eating the berries that grew on a certain type of tree. He spread the news to the nearby monastery, where monks used the coffee berries to prolong their prayer time. While the credibility of this story is questioned, the origin of coffee can certainly be traced back to Ethiopia.

Since those spunky goats, coffee has become a profitable crop grown around the world in what is called the bean belt. It lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with Hawaii being the only state in the US to grow the bitter bean. Be that as it may, the US has turned coffee into a $30 billion industry; CNBC estimates that our country drinks 400 million cups of coffee a day.

Mayo Clinic suggests that 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day isn’t bad for you, but that drinking upwards of 500 milligrams is not healthy. To put that into more comprehensible terms, consider that a grande-sized coffee from Starbucks has 330 milligrams of caffeine. I don’t know about you, but when I do the math, I exceed my recommended dosage. In my defense though, I spread my intake throughout the day, save a recent work experience where I downed about 565 milligrams in twenty minutes. Needless to say I learned my lesson.

Coffee addicts often hear about the negative consequences of their habit: insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal headaches, and blood pressure spikes. But what about the positives? I will never forget the moment I read in a Newsweek article that claimed that women who drink four cups of coffee per day reduce their risk of becoming clinically depressed by 20 percent. Upon further investigation, I learned that those four cups also decrease my risk for liver cirrhosis by 80 percent, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis. While I drink alcohol responsibly, I interpreted this as a sign to drink my favorite caffeinated beverage with reckless abandon (thus my overdose in the workplace).

Sometimes you wake up smiling on the right side of the bed, and sometimes you don’t. In any case, I urge you to take a cue from those crazy Ethiopian goats, and kickstart your day with a fresh cup of joe.

Image by puuikibeach from http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/3299635718/

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