Every place that coffee has been tasted has really never been the same.
Certainly, every culture has responded to coffee’s arrival in some extraordinary way. Over the years it has survived being outlawed by religions and governments and stigmatized as being the “devil’s drink.” Today, it is the most consumed beverage behind water.
While coffee has always had its fans, it has also had its enemies over the years – many of which have warned against the drink’s ill-effects on our health.
Even today, the debate on the coffee effect towards our health has its occasional waves of hysteria …or hope. (Most recently whether green coffee extract can lead to substantial weight loss has caused some wrangling.)
Yet, despite all the discussion on health, there hasn’t been one noted death or contraction of any disease contributed to the consumption of coffee in humans.
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The Past Health Concerns About Coffee Consumption
Here’s the “all-time” past health concerns about coffee that just didn’t pan out for the coffee haters.
Coffee Health Concern #1. The year was 1656 when a well-known German astronomer had observed (and published) that “Kahave water” – as coffee was once called – would cause men to be impotent. The book was also published in French, which as you can imagine scared the bejezuz out of Frenchmen. In case you’re wondering this theory has since been debunked.
Coffee Health Concern #2. German “doctors” in the early 1700’s held on to the claim that coffee made men not only impotent, but sterile as well. I suppose if the former was true, the later wouldn’t make a difference, right? In any case, the true motives may have been that beer consumption – the national drink – was decreasing due to coffee. Coffee would later be briefly banned in Germany and enforced through a small army of “coffee smellers.” (Modern day NSA bureaucrats?).
Coffee Health Concern #3. French doctors joined in the attack in 1670s. A doctor named Colomb had preached that coffee dried up brain fluid, caused convulsions, and of course…wait for it…impotence! While it may lead to slight dehydration as it is a diuretic, the other theories have fallen by the way side.
Coffee Health Concern #4. Coffee has been noted to have special health and healing powers too. For decades it was given to patients to alleviate asthma (which may hold some credence actually). A French doctor in the 1680s, named Dufour, had reasoned that coffee could heal scurvy, gout, kidney stones, and should be used for enemas. (I’ll let you think about that one for a moment).
Coffee Health Concern #5. Women in England actually organized to get in on the impotence bandwagon (via The Women’s Petition), which they attributed the male condition of impotence due to “Excessive use of the Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called Coffee.” In reality, it was one of many petitions for equal rights as women were not allowed in some of the coffeehouses of the day – in England. It should be noted that men responded to the petition by imploring that coffee actually made their, er, erections much more “vigorous”. I'll stop there.
Coffee Health Concern #6. Pasqua, a Greek immigrant was the first coffeehouse owner in London. He announced that coffee would help with digestion, stubborn coughs, prevent miscarriages, and help you stay awake. Though he was right about the effects of caffeine, he was trying to address all the ailments and health worries that were prevalent in the 1650s. He is noted as being among the first coffee marketers.
Coffee Health Concern #8. The American entrepreneur and creator of our modern day “Post” brand cereals was on a crusade to end coffee consumption in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Charles Post had his motives – he invented a coffee substitute, which he modestly labeled “Postum.” The coffee substitute had generated millions of dollars in sales by scaring the willies out of coffee drinkers and coffee import companies. Among many ailments, he warned that coffee would lead to disastrous conditions for the human heart and lead to blindness.
Coffee Health Concern #9. As late as the 1970s and 1980s the Center for Science in the Public Interest had requested the FDA put warning labels on coffee, “Caffeine May Cause Birth Defects”. The National Coffee Association and beverage giant Coca-Cola, joined forces to quash that effort with their own scientific evidence that was actually more compelling. The CSPI’s case was pretty weak in my opinion and failed to hold any water.
#10. In the years since, coffee has been accused of causing pancreatic cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and cholesterol problems – none really substantiated by consistent and reliable testing.
So, what’s it all mean?
Is coffee unhealthy? Many people passionately say yes and no. Of course, you’re talking to a coffee blogger who believes that not having coffee is always unhealthy for him. Certainly, the impact coffee rests with each individual. Moderation is always essential. Excessive amounts of anything is unhealthy – including benign things such as water, cheese, and Vitamin C.