Mar 12, 2021

Coffee May Actually Be A Health Food, “Decades-long” Study Says

Hello, espresso! Adieu, heart failure!

By Ed Goldman

Turns out that drinking coffee may lower, not increase, your risk of heart failure. (It may lower my own risk, as well, but I’m always thinking of you first. That’s just how I roll.)

I do think, however, if you drink coffee in the presence of someone who’s been proudly announcing to everyone in sight and on social media that he or she had recently given up caffeine, you’ll still be running a risk of heart failure—if, that is, it stresses you out to dump cinnamon on someone at the Peet’s condiments credenza for babbling on and on about having given up coffee. Especially if the person screams afterward, “Now look at what you’ve done! I’ll never get this out of my hair in time for Zumba class!”

Edgy Cartoon

!Café Olé!

The new findings came out of three extensive, “decades-long” studies  of more than 21,000 participants, according to its senior author, Dr. David P. Kao, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, as reported in the New York Times in late February. My first thought was to wonder if half of the participants drank fully caffeinated coffee and the other half drank Postum®, the grain drink made of roasted wheat bran and molasses. Once beloved by grandparents the world over (though actually hard to find for the past 14 years), it’s completely caffeine- and taste-free.

Now, I’ve never been one of those individuals who obsessively crave coffee first thing in the morning—possibly because my “first thing” isn’t really in the ballpark with most people’s “first thing,” unless they work as overnight security guards, for Ask-A-Nurse or are zombies. 

By the same token, I can usually enjoy a cup of coffee in the evening without it turning me into a gaunt banshee at 4 a.m., screaming out the window, “Sleeeep! I need sleeeep! God, why hast thou forsaken my nighty-night?” (Gaunt banshees are known to revert to toddler talk when over-tired. You should Google this. I’ll wait a few minutes for you.)

The ability to drink coffee at night without incurring trauma appears to be a cultural thing. I knew a Spanish guy who couldn’t get to sleep without first having some very strong coffee: a thick black brew pumped into his cup directly from the La Brea Tar Pits.

All of that said, while the intake of coffee rarely wakens me, the aroma of it brewing in the kitchen does tend to exude some magic. It rouses me and it seems to signify the arrival of morning to my olfactory glands. To recap, it evokes more of a sensual than chemical response for me. This is also true of the smell and sound of lamb sizzling on the barbeque (love the smell; can take or leave the taste), the pffft sound of a beer can being opened (and an odor less redolent to me of gusto than horse urine) and even my beloved cigars, for which I have a reverse reaction: I love to puff on a good one but  am well aware that all cigars smell like someone burning carrion leaves in the sixth circle of Hell. (Note to unrepentant atheists: This is where pagans go, according to Dante. Your room’s being prepared even as we speak.)

Here’s my favorite part of the article summarizing the research: “There was no association of a decreased risk of heart failure with drinking decaffeinated coffee in fact, one study suggested it might increase the risk.”

Keep that in mind the next time people accost you to crow about the marvels of their having given up coffee. Saying a simple, “I’m so sorry, I’ll speak well of you” wouldn’t be inappropriate—and it’s certainly not nasty enough to keep you up at night.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).