Coffee in the Garden of Eden

Dov Michaeli

Posted 12/22/11 on the Doctor Weighs In

“Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers”

Genesis, 2, 10-14

Incredulous Dov
Adam and Eve, by Hendryk Goltzius (who could get away with this "pornography" as long it was biblical)

Quick: what fruit did Eve offer to Adam? All of you who answer “apple”, are (drum roll…) WRONG! As the bible says, the fruit came from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And that’s it;  the common  perception that it was an apple is unfounded.

Well, have I got a surprise for you: I just discovered the fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil – it’s the coffee bean! And it is located not in Mesoptamia, today’s Iraq, but in Colombia, South America.

As the plane was descending toward Armenia (pronounced ar-MEN-ia),  in the coffee-growing region of Colombia, the land underneath us came into sharper focus: lush vegetation, tropical trees and rows upon rows of coffee bushes clinging to the sides of the hills. I was thinking that God made a mistake in parting the waters of the Red Sea. If he could perform such a miracle, why not the Pacific ocean? The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land (couldn’t they ask for directions, for heaven’s sake?). They could have  reach the true paradise situated here in the coffee region, and in half the time. Well, even if not “the true paradise”, God must have had it in mind when he created the biblical one.

As we entered the hotel, Mirador las Palmasthe first reaction was a gasp, and a WOW. The beauty of this location is beyond description.  I am sitting on the balcony outside our room, looking at the cloud-shrouded mountains, the rows of coffee plants on the mountainside, the various kinds of palm trees, I am immersed in the full-throated chorus of goldfinches, tanagers, and countless other colorful tropical songbirds. This was the very image of Paradise I had since childhood, when I read the biblical fable.

The partners who built and manage the hotel, a Colombian and a hybrid American/Israeli, spared no effort to make the their creation an integral extension of the surrounding. No detail was neglected -perfection everywhere you look.

But I am not here to shill for the hotel. You’ll have to try it yourself, which I heartily recommend.

The Health Story of Coffee

When I trained in medicine, eons ago, my professors and supervisors seemed to have a visceral suspicion of anything coffee. It increases the odds of getting pancreatic cancer, it can give you a stomach ulcer, it will increase your blood pressure, it will cause a stroke. It weems that the medical world threw at it everything, including the kitchen sink. Thankfully, none of it proved factual, but prejudices and strong opinions die hard. As recently as a couple of years ago I filled out a questionaire designed by a well-known longevity researcher, and he lopped off 2 years from my life expectancy just because I drank 2 cups a day.

Yes, if you drink huge amounts of coffee every day it may raise your blood pressure. And, if you are one of those who can’t sleep if you drink too late in the day, don’t worry – it is genetically determined, nothing wrong with you. Other people, with a different genetic makeup actually can get sleepy after they drink coffee.

Recent research shows that coffee in moderate amounts (up to 6-7 cups a day) good things may happen to you. Most of these studies are cited in the Huffington Post, in an excellent article on the subject.

Type 2 Diabetes: an extensive review was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In that review, researchers looked at data from more than 450,000 people in 18 studies, and found that for every extra cup of coffee drank a day, a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes decreased by 7 percent. Of course that that doesn’t mean that if you drink 14 cups a day you are 100% protected from getting the disease.

Prostate cancer: A Harvard School of Public Health study shows that men who drink six cups of coffee a day have a 60 percent decreased chance of developing a dangerous form of prostate cancer, as well as a 20 percent decreased chance of developing any other kinds of prostate cancer. The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, also shows that just drinking just some coffee a day — just one to three cups — could still cut prostate cancer risk by 30 percent

Basal cell carcinoma: To all you sun-worshippers, especially if you happen to own 2 copies of the X chromosome and you are a female, here is good news. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that women who drink three or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day have a 20 percent lower risk of the skin cancer, while men had a 9 percent lower risk. Decaffeinated coffee did not have this protective effect. Conclusion: the effect is due to caffeine.

Alzheimer’s disease: A study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that there’s something in coffee — though researchers have yet to determine what exactly that “something” is — interacts with caffeine to boost the levels of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF), a growth factor that seems to be able to fight off Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

The amount of coffee needed in the study is equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee for humans.

Researchers said GCSF likely has this effect because it causes stem cells in the bone marrow to come into the brain and remove the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It also has a role in forming brain cell connections and creating new brain neurons, researchers said.

Parkinson’s disease: in a review which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers examined 26 studies that involved 125,000 British people, to find that two or three cups of coffee seemed to have the optimal effect.

Depression: Research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that women who drink two to three cups of coffee a day have a 15 percent lower risk, while women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 20 percent lower risk.

Concentration: The caffeine in coffee could actually help you to spot grammar errors, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, cited by no less an authority than MSNBC. So all you bad spellers and speakers with bad grammar -take heed. A cup a day will keep the grammar police away. And students cramming for a test -coffee may help you compensate for the lousy study habits you had the whole semester.

Bottom line: not everything that is “good for you” tastes bad. Think how “they” tried to tell us that wine was as bad as sin, and chocolate was plain awful for our health. They were plainly wrong. Now we know that coffee is great stuff. So don’t feel guily and have a cup of Joe in the morning, or two, or three.

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