Friday, January 17, 2014

Did I just fall off the coffee wagon?

I have been off coffee for about two months. I stopped for a variety of reasons. Look, I was a heavy coffee drinker for years and wondered how much of an impact it had on my health and mental well being.

I have always been a high strung person which I guess is a euphemism for anxious, nervous and worrying. There have been studies... coffee studies really suck. One day it kills you and the next it cures you. The smell and taste of coffee are incredibly complex and not well understood. Making fake coffee like fake chocolate has been impossible so far. There are many compounds and only a few are even studied.

At the peak of my consumption as a twenty something year old, I was probably doing two pots a day. Eventually, I whittled down my habit to three cups--three twenty ounce cups. That can be a lot of caffeine, especially if you are drinking the light roast. Light roast and flavoured coffees tend to have more caffeine while your expresso has less. Seems counter intuitive but there it is.

In my late thirties, I started going to see my doctor regularly. With a family history of heart attacks, heart disease, diabetes and strokes, I thought it might be a good idea to see if I had any of the risks. Well, I did. Turns out that smattering of risk factors has a name, Metabolic Syndrome. Just a fancy way of saying that it appears that your body maybe shit at converting sugar to energy. They are not sure of the cause but know that reducing your girth is the best way to deal with it. Who are they anyway? There is evidence to show that these cluster of risk factors are genetic. There are things that can be done to reduce the risk.

So what does this have to do with coffee? Well. I have found that I am caffeine sensitive (duh, that's why I drink it) and my blood pressure rises more than average after a cup of joe. The amount of coffee that I was drinking may also cause issues with the ability to deal with the absorption of carbs.

When you are looking at studies, it is important to note that the results are taken at a population level. You need to understand the population under study and determine if you are a member of that population. Even then, it is important to note that the result is a general result and not necessarily going to affect you in particular. With that caveat, I can say that we know that caffeine has an effect on metabolism and it appears to differ between individuals based on a few criteria. The ones that seem to matter are weight, age and coffee consumption. I'm oversimplifying but hey, it's a personal blog. I fall in the bad side of the criterion categories. I was overweight, older and drinking too much.

I found myself wondering whether my high strungedness, risks for all that crap and metabolic issues could be tied to caffeine. I GP'd myself. Anyone remember Hammy Hamster? GP was the Guinea Pig. I stoppered the big caffeine pipeline into my body only allowing no more than a hot chocolate or two a day. This is waaaaaaay less caffeine than before. I don't even want to think about the numbers.

Now, after about two months, I am having my first coffee. It is of the type that I used to think of utilitarian or maintenance coffee. A Nescafe in the morning (or two or three) before getting my coffee at a local coffee shop on the way work. Note, I didn't consider the Nescafe as my morning coffee.

Half done the cup and already notice a slight rise in heart beat and the flow of brain chatter increasing. I know that if I have coffee every day, these small benefits recede into the background to be replaced with small withdrawal symptoms that feed the cycle. Eventually, we need caffeine to wake us up rather than push up past our normal. Science says that within three days of regular consumption, the average individual experiences these affects.

So, I will probably remain off caffeine until my yearly physical and see if the numbers improve. Even if they don't, I may limit my coffees to ones I really like no more than twice a week. But we will see. There will be more posts about this (mis)adventure.

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