Personally, I'm not a coffee drinker. I've never understood the love of that bitter, acrid flavor or the desire of most coffee drinkers to want a scalding hot drink that they sip gingerly for fear of burning their tongues. I tried drinking coffee when I was a teen, and although I loved the smell of coffee beans, I couldn't get into the taste of coffee. The closest I came was when my Greek brother-in-law at the time got me into having his morning "breakfast coffee" (as he called it) with lots of sugar, milk and a whole egg dropped into it. More than likely this is what put a few hairs on my thirteen year old chest as I helped Yiorgos paint houses that summer. I soon realized that I was not the coffee type...
But of course, the world is full of coffee lovers--no... addicts. This is how I tend to see coffee--as a drug that can addict the drinker. I had one assistant in my studio who was really addicted to coffee. I had a coffee machine mainly to serve clients when they came to photographic shoots, but it got daily use from my assistant to serve his addiction. This was when we were doing lots of jewelry photography which involved surgeon-like precision manipulations of wrist watches, chains, pearls and diamonds. The work took a stead hand, but my assistant's hands shook like an addict in Alphabet City from indulging in over 10 cups of coffee each day.
I worry about this when my wife Lisa drinks a bit too much coffee or espresso from her Moka pot (she tends to exclusively use the largest Moka in her collection). She also tends to be prone to caffeine energy spikes... I can tell when she's "high" on the stuff. I worry about any effects caffeine might have on her kidneys, her blood pressure, and her acid reflux (ok... perhaps I worry too much, but she is "my gal" and Lucas' Mom, after all).
We always get into debates on the health aspects--or lack thereof--of coffee and espresso. I'm not a tyrant on the subject... in fact, I'm the one that tends to buy her Moka pots and stuff her Christmas stocking with exotic flavored coffee beans. Lisa throws every new report about coffee at me... "See? Coffee protects against diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver disease, liver cancer, and is good for your heart!"
Just about every month or so there are more and more contradicting studies about what is and isn't good for our health. But on the heels of some recent reports suggesting that drinking coffee is good for our health, a new study suggests that even a single cup of espresso can lessen the flow of blood to the heart by 22 percent within one hour of being consumed. (You see, Lisa? Put that in your Moka but don't drink it!)
Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study confirms that high levels of caffeine found in a single espresso have negative cardiovascular effects. This is especially troubling in Italy, where an espresso or two in the morning jump starts workers' days--a great concern, even considering that Italy recently was deemed the healthiest country in Europe. (Read ITALY: Healthiest Country in Europe HERE)
Even in the U.S. and the UK, espresso consumption is on the rise, along with all the multitude of flavored and high calorie, large serving sized coffees on the market. Many coffee shops are pushing the "hard stuff" on the coffee addicted public, along with introducing caffeine to a younger and younger audience. In one case, a 17 year old girl was rushed to hospital after overdosing on espresso with an elevated heartbeat, fever and hyperventilation after seven double espressos. Holy Doppio!
Along with a shot of espresso reducing blood flow to the heart, blood pressure itself also rises significantly. As expected, decaffeinated coffee had no harmful effect on blood flow or blood pressure.
The study was carried out by a team at the University of Palermo in Italy, examined the effects of a single espresso shot on 20 adult volunteers, compared to a decaffeinated alternative. They measured how much blood vessels dilate when blood flow is increased. Healthy blood vessels will stretch open to let more blood pass through easily. Within just an hour of consuming a single espresso, blood flow had reduced by an average of 22%, which depending on the overall health of the individual, in worse case scenarios, could lead to heart attack or stroke.
Health experts advise not to drink more than four cups of coffee a day (namely, an 8 ounce cup). A typical 8-ounce cup of coffee contains up to 15 mg of caffeine per ounce of brewed coffee... that's 120mg per 8 ounce cup (in a Trenta that's 450mg of caffeine!)
In espresso, the servings are typically smaller, but the concentration of caffeine is more concentrated at up to 50 mg/oz. This means that an Italian sized one ounce shot of espresso contains 50 mg of caffeine and a Doppio (double shot) contains 100 mg of caffeine. By this math, a Starbucks "Quad" should contain 200 mg of caffeine, but even on Starbucks own website, they list a Quad as having 300 mg of the drug!
Of course, it's in Starbucks' own best interests to up the caffeine content to get even more customers hooked on the black stuff.
As for me, I'll stick to herb tea... and keep telling Lisa that having her espresso is what we call in our family a "Once in a Blue Moon" treat. For Lisa, that's once a week with Sunday breakfast...
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