Tag Archives: coffee

Coffee and Kids: Wonder Beverage or Devil’s Brew?

There has recently been a lot of talk about a very old beverage, coffee.

The occasion for this has been the admission by seemingly responsible parents that they actually give their young child a cup of coffee with breakfast. Egads – what is the world coming to?

With some guilt, I admit my 8-year-old had a cup with her Fruit Loops this morning, as she does most mornings. (Please don’t report me to CPS).

So is coffee bad for kids? The old cup-a-joe has a long and somewhat sordid history. Going back to the days of dirt and plague, coffee was associated with all manner of dark things, like most of what went on in the Middle Ages, with no scientific basis.

Yet coffee is one of the most studied beverages on the planet, not surprisingly as there are nearly 1000 organic chemicals in a cup of brew. Caffeine is the one that everyone talks about. This is an interesting chemical, a mild stimulant in the methyl xanthene family. This is closely related to adrenalin and medications that are used to treat asthma. Coffee is a well known bronchodilator. So coffee certainly isn’t bad for kids with asthma.

One of the other effects of coffee is to mildly raise dopamine levels in the brain. You’ve heard of raising dopamine in talking about antidepressants, like Prozac. In fact kids who drink a cup of coffee with milk per day have a significantly lower rate of depression. So coffee isn’t bad for sad kids.

Caffeine is a stimulant and recently parents of kids with attention deficit disorder have been experimenting on their kids.

The thought goes something like this: if the stimulant amphetamine helps kid with ADHD focus and concentrate, maybe a good cup of coffee will do the same. Funny thing is, it does seem to help. We don’t have any huge definitive studies to quote, but limited research shows coffee helps kids with ADHD focus and concentrate. It doesn’t help as much as Adderall, but it does help. For some kids, coffee is all they need. For other kids who don’t get enough benefit from medications, adding a cup of coffee helps. So coffee isn’t bad for kids with attention deficit disorder.

What about other kids? My daughter had a cup this morning. She isn’t challenged by ADD, or depression, thankfully. She just likes a cup in the morning like I do. Coffee doesn’t stunt your growth or hurt your development in any way we have found. It actually does some good stuff. Parkinson’s disease is reduced in coffee drinkers as is colon cancer, liver disease and Type 2 diabetes. All well proven. Early research on Alzheimer’s disease suggests its occurrence is reduced in coffee drinkers.

For those still thinking coffee is an adult only vice, I invite you to consider normal kid breakfast drink alternatives. What do your kids drink for breakfast? Popular orange drinks have many times the sugar of coffee. Other beverage choices have higher fat or cholesterol content. In this epidemic of obesity, nobody ever got fat on coffee.

So tomorrow morning when I pour my cup, I will cheerfully give some to my 8-year-old; she gets her own cup because I don’t like to share.

Take care

Dr B

Best of Our Blog: A Cup of Joe and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

We’ve culled through the statistics and pulled together some of our most-read blog items since we launched. Below are two of the favorites.

A Cup of Joe — Stuff of Life or Poison?

In this country, we drink 400 million cups of coffee per day. We consume over 45% of the world’s coffee production. For the record, some of the Scandinavian countries consume three times more coffee per person.

Given all this coffee drinking, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most researched beverages on the planet. And yet there is almost universal confusion on the health consequences of coffee drinking.
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Made Clear in 10 Paragraphs

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an occupational medical diagnosis that often gives employers, patients, and sometimes even medical providers, undue levels of frustration. Like a lot of other things in medicine, reasonably simple concepts are hidden behind Latin words. You just need a basic understanding of how things are put together – in other words, anatomy.

Let’s start with the hands. The hands are absolute miracles of micro-engineering. They are capable of generating tremendous force, while being compact and delicate enough to pay a violin. They pull this off by putting the muscles that work the fingers in the forearm. These muscles are connected by cables, called tendons, to the fingers. Contract a muscle in the forearm, it pulls the cable (tendon) and moves the finger. I never fail to be impressed by the cleverness with which the human body is put together.

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A Cup of Joe, Stuff of life or Poison?

In this country, we drink 400 million cups of coffee per day.  We consume over 45% of the world’s coffee production.  For the record, some of the Scandinavian countries consume three times more coffee per person.

Given all this coffee drinking, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most researched beverages on the planet.  And yet there is almost universal confusion on the health consequences of coffee drinking.

The problem is, we started our coffee studies 40 years ago when we were just starting to suspect cigarettes were a bad thing.  The early coffee studies showed people dying of heart attacks, mouth, throat and lung cancer.   It turns out in those days, coffee drinking was accompanied by cigarette smoking, and the control group didn’t drink coffee or smoke.  So all the bad stuff that we thought was associated with coffee drinking, was actually associated with smoking, and had nothing to do with coffee.

In case you think studying coffee is a light weight task for the scientists that got “C”s; coffee has more that 1,000 different chemicals identified.  Apparently a few of them cause cancer in rats.  In fact, it’s pretty hard to pick 1,000 chemicals and not have a few of them be bad for somebody.

Coffee does some well-known bad stuff.  It can be associated with anxiety and sleep disturbance.  It modestly raises both blood pressure and pulse.  It increases the acid in your stomach, and it stains your teeth.  That is the crime list for coffee.

Ah, but the benefits.

Coffee, first and foremost, increases memory, performance and wakefulness.  That just might keep you awake at the next meeting, thus keeping your job, which is a major health benefit.  All this wakefulness results in a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.   Some gastrointestinal cancers occur less frequently in coffee drinkers; especially throat, liver and prostate cancers.  Parkinson’s Disease is less frequent among the well-caffeinated.  Type 2 diabetes also is reduced in coffee drinkers.  Caffeine is also known to potentiate pain medication (it makes it work better).

All in all, coffee is a lousy replacement for a good night’s sleep, and should be avoided by those with sensitive stomachs.  For the rest of us, a cup a Joe is a safe warm spot in a cold and stressful world; and that’s another health benefit.

- Dr Don Bucklin, National MRO – AKA “Dr B”


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