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September 17, 2010 / GO Brooklyn / Books / Checkin’ in with...

Man says we should stop drinking coffee! What, is he nuts?!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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In addition to Xanax and a shot of vodka with a Red Bull chaser, we need more than a few cups of coffee to get through the day. So when we heard about a book that said the caffeine in coffee makes us fat, it was like getting splashed in the face with a piping hot espresso. Are those love handles really caused by our Venti Pike Place Roast, rather than all the Heineken and chicken wings we consumed while watching the Giants destroy the Panthers on Sunday? To find out, we had our writer Alex Rush check in with Eugene Wells, the Brighton Beach-based writer of “The Decaf Diet: Is Caffeine Making You Fat?” to find out.

Alex Rush: Who the hell are you to tell me that I need to stop drinking coffee or else I’ll get fat? I need that coffee. Why are you trying to destroy my way of life?

Eugene Wells: I’m not saying you should stop drinking coffee, because I still drink it from time to time, too. I’m just pointing out that we should have it in moderation because there are a number of different ways that coffee and caffeine intake can contribute to a slower metabolism and overeating. For instance, caffeine consumption can increase your levels of cortisol, which are hormones released in response to stress. Stress and those hormones cause an increase in appetite, which of course causes overeating. Caffeine can also cause muscles to break down.

AR: But you’re a lawyer with no background in scientific research. Where are you getting your information from?

EW: I noticed that I gained a lot of weight really fast after drinking coffee regularly.

AR: Yeah, I noticed that the book had no jacket picture.

EW: Nice once. Anyway, I have a lanky frame, yet I put on 35 pounds in six months, all in my belly. So I did some research and as it turned out, a lot of people had the same problem. And they were also making the connection between coffee and weight gain. In the book, I cite a ton of scientific studies to support this.

AR: But there are thousands of other studies show that coffee has many health benefits beyond making journalists’ copy zing. I’ve seen reports that coffee helps prevent cancer, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even Alzheimer’s. Wouldn’t you gain a few pounds to keep your sanity and your liver?

EW: But those studies look at the compounds in caffeine-containing beverages in isolation. They don’t really examine how coffee can negatively affect people who need to keep their cortisol and insulin levels down. And none of them really acknowledge the link between coffee and overeating, which is what I try to focus on. And there are other ways to prevent those illnesses, such as by eating healthy and exercising.

AR: Eating healthy and exercising?! Are you a Communist? And besides, coffee has anti-oxidants. Aren’t those good for me?

EW: Well, anti-oxidants are in a lot of other drinks, like herb tea, and even in fruits and dairy products.

AR: Look, I can see you’re a reasonable man, so I’ll try again: Coffee is amazing. It can even boost athletic performance! That’s why the Olympic Committee requires athletes to limit their coffee intake — it can stimulate the brain to help them run faster and even improve muscle contraction! Care to comment, or is this interview over?

EW: Coffee does give us an energy boost. But increased cortisol levels definitely contribute to muscle breakdown.

AR: Look, we’re not getting anywhere with this. Bottom line: How can I continue to drink an obscene amount of coffee without putting on the pounds?

EW: Like I said, the main reason that people gain weight from coffee is because it increases the body’s stress response, which leads to over-eating. So you should drink coffee when your level of stress is lower, like when you’re not in a bad mood and when things aren’t hectic at work.

AR: But I don’t need coffee when I’m not in a bad mood or things aren’t hectic.

EW: OK, fine. But you definitely shouldn’t drink coffee along with a meal that’s high in carbohydrates, which also cause an increase in glucose and insulin. Properly timed coffee-drinking can minimize caffeine’s negative effects.

AR: So coffee for energy and coffee with a muffin are out?

EW: Yes, I’m afraid.

AR: We’re done here.

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Reader Feedback

Or from Yellow Hook says:
Stop drinking coffee, smoking, eating red meat, and raw fish, and die anyway.

Maybe you'll live longer, maybe it just feels that way.
Sept. 17, 2010, 1:25 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
Screw that, everything in moderation.
Living too long is a curse, anyway.
Sept. 17, 2010, 2:45 pm
Michael from Park Slope says:
Why can't killjoys like this just sit down, shut up and fade away? Theirs is a sort of grapefruit existence that, to share in the misery, they'd like to impose on us all.
Sept. 17, 2010, 8:02 pm
from says:
Human Quaalude
Sept. 17, 2010, 11:37 pm
Jason from Hell's Kitchen (former Coney Islander) says:
I can see his theory being true. After all who drinks coffee? Fat, end of the line, cubicle dwellers. Now look at the opposite end of the spectrum, super models… no caffiene there… just good 'ol Columbian Go-Powder. Maybe that's what the corporate world is missing to get us out of this slump. (Gee I hope this isn't used against me if I ever run for Senate.)
Sept. 18, 2010, 3:25 am
swag from Bed-Stuy says:
Damn. We'll give anybody a newspaper column these days.
Sept. 18, 2010, 6:48 am
Nelly from Brooklyn Heights says:
I've actually read this book and this guy is about OPTIMAL coffee drinking. He says coffee has so and so bad effects, and gives ways of reducing these effects while continuing to drink coffee.

In fact, he says if you're gonna have caffeine, have coffee and chocolate, NOT green tea. So for some people, he is saying switch from tea to coffee. Put that in your mug.
Sept. 18, 2010, 9:13 am
Kathy from Dumbo says:
I like that this appears the same day as the article about Jews buying caffeine suppositories....reason enough right there for me to get on the wagon.
Sept. 18, 2010, 11:09 am
Jimmy from Miami FL says:
Great Job! No caffeine for me anymore.. Love the picture
Sept. 18, 2010, 8:55 pm
Patty from Cake says:
coffee = poison!
Sept. 20, 2010, 3:07 pm
Jason from Manhattan says:
I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a fascinating look at a drug most of us consume readily without careful examination.
Sept. 20, 2010, 5:57 pm
Gene from NY says:
I like the article... yet another thing that is "good" for us. I can't say I like Alex though, he came off as a bit of a smart ass.
Sept. 25, 2010, 10:35 pm
Carla from Fairbanks says:
This guy is sick in the head. I'm not giving up my coffee.
Sept. 30, 2010, 8:06 pm
Karen Vaughan L.Ac. from Park Slope says:
His information on coffee research is dead wrong. Coffee is more than caffeine- it is a complex aqueous herbal beverage with flavanoids, bitters, chlorogenic acid (an anti-inflammatory constituent also found in blueberries), trigonelline, polysaccharides, ogliosaccharides, essential oils, 5% of the daily magnesium and 2% of the daily potassium needs, plus vitamin E and niacin. Two cups daily of coffee- not isolated constituents- lower C-reactive protein levels (a measure of inflammation) as much as a statin and higher levels lower it more. This would reduce cortisol. Coffee is associated with lower levels of type 2 diabetes- three to four cups a day results in a 27% reduction rate and high consumption- over 10 cups with a 55% reduction- (1) Alcoholics at risk for cirrhosis of the liver have lower rates. Asthmatics have fewer attacks and can head them off with caffeinated coffee or a coffee foot bath. Coffee is associated with 24% lower levels of colon cancer 21% fewer incidents of gallstones and 60% less Parkinson’s Disease. The amount of caffeine in three cups of coffee a day can prevent and slightly reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s’- the last study was on an isolated constituent.

Cortisol can increase belly fat, but coffee does not necessarily increase cortisol, especially given its anti-inflammatory effect. Lack of sleep can increase cortisol. The stress of completing a job after staying up can increase cortisol. But don't blame the coffee.
Oct. 4, 2010, 1:32 am
Linguistic Mystic from Portland, OR says:
Wow. Caffeine, even in individuals habituated to it, raises blood cortisol levels by as much as 30% in the first hour of consumption. Even in people who are trying to relax, this reaction occurs... Also, as caffeine takes a variety of essential nutrients away from the body as it is detoxified (most notably, Iron, magnesium, calcium, and water), it leaves the body deficient for these chemicals. When the body lacks these chemicals, it releases hormones that increase appetite, as the body's signal that it needs nourishment. This increased appetite will inevitably lead to weight gain and chemical deficiencies to other problems.

Just because you're addicted to coffee, there is no excuse for ignoring valid scientific conclusions and fitting random incoherent facts together in order to justify your addiction. Trust me, I've been there before, and whatever addiction you have, I can tell you, that no addiction is healthy. It is a barrier to mental, spiritual, and physical growth and health.
Jan. 28, 2012, 6:22 pm

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