Thursday, June 15, 2006

Caffeinated Antidote?

So, by now, you must be thinking "Gee DocSurg, what is it that gets your aggravated a@* out of bed in the morning?" Thanks to the wonders of the internet, now you get to find out: Coffee! Black, stand-up-your-spoon-in-it mud! Java. Joe. Ink. Perk. Jitter Juice. You get the picture. I love a large cup of hot coffee in the morning, and it's got to be dark and black --- no communist lattes, espressos, cafe au laits or other namby-pamby so-called "coffee" drinks --- just plain coffee. And it had better be caffeinated, dammit, or you get to hear me say dammit all morning long! On the flip side of the day, I occasionally indulge in a good glass of wine -- but for sheer relaxation, a dirty martini is just the perfect thing. But wait! Isn't coffee supposed to be bad for you? Aren't martinis a one-way street to cirrhosis?

Au contraire, mon frere! Some smart guys decided to look at heavy drinkers who happened to drink a fair amount of coffee, and found that cirrhosis was far less frequent in java junkies than non-coffee drinkers. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Yessssss!"

Curious line of research, don't you think? Maybe the researchers were bored, pounded a few drinks, and while nursing their headaches the following morning with the ebony elixir of life decided, "What the heck, I'm sure we can get some grant money to study this!"

Actually, given that only about a quarter of all alcoholics develop cirrhosis, and given that we don't really understand why they do and the others are spared, this line of research opens up some interesting avenues for further investigation. Is this the result of the holy chemical, caffeine? Does it reflect that perhaps coffee drinkers were more likely to be more affluent, and therefore able to maintain better nutrition along with steady coffee intake? Although the studies will take some time to come to fruition, hopefully the smart guys in lab coats are on to something here.

As an aside, a few years back I read a wonderful short book called The Devil's Cup, by Stewart Lee Allen (just goes to show you how obsessive I can be). It's a fun, sometimes funny, always interesting read -- a "coffeecentric" view of history and geography, so to speak. And if your friends can't tell that you're hyped to the gills with 10 cups of "fully leaded" every morning, go to Think Geek to get t-shirts, mugs and more plastered with the caffeine molecule (see above) so they can be fully warned.