08 March, 2006

Caffeinated Catch-22

The way the media reports on food health issues generally brings out the cynic in me, which notes that if you wait around long enough, the new ‘wonder food’ will be implicated as a possible carcinogen. Reporters often seem to miss the obvious fact that both could be true, depending on circumstances (for example, something that is very good for you in small doses can be very bad for you in large doses).

So I generally ignore the periodic announcements that coffee/caffeine is good/bad for me. I have a long standing love affair (‘addiction’ is such an ugly word) with coffee – proper coffee, that is, not that instant or Starbucks rubbish. With apologies to my fellow Brits for the blasphemy, I much prefer it to tea. I drink 1-3 cups a day, and have yet to see convincing evidence for the insane mortality rate that would exist in academic circles if it was too bad for you, so am on the whole fairly happy.

Now I find out, in a widely reported study, that depending on which version of a particular gene I have, my habit is either increasing my risk of a heart attack by 36%, or reducing it by 22%. Here’s hoping I have two copies of the ‘fast’ enzyme gene.

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