So my friend tells me she's quit ting coffee, and I'm all what the hell would you want to do a thing like that for?
"Because," she says, "I want to lose weight, and caffeine doesn't actually help you lose weight. And anyway, it's not good for you."
I dunno. I'm severely addicted. One time my boyfriend bought decaf by accident and we didn't know and drank it anyway.
I couldn't figure out why I couldn't keep my eyes open and fell asleep every time I sat down, until I looked at the coffee container.
But I don't consider this habit particularly serious as far as addictions go, and have no intention of giving up my three morning cups. Coffee isn't my only caffeine source either.
I have no fewer than eight forms of the stuff in my house, including chocolate and tea. Still, there are negatives, especially if you have high blood pressure or are already just a high-strung asshole.
And if you are thinking of giving it up, there may be easier ways than sleeping for a week straight.
What the experts say
"Studies on coffee and heart disease have been conflicting. Some show increased risk and some decreased risk with moderate intakes. We know that people are individuals, so we looked at the gene we believe is associated with these effects and found that it exists in two different forms, one fast-acting and one slow. For people with the slow-metabolizing gene, coffee was associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack, but in those with the fast gene there was no increased risk. In fact, moderate intakes seemed to lower the risk. That suggests that those with a fast metabolism can get rid of caffeine quickly; it doesn't linger or cause damage to the blood vessels, and the antioxidants in coffee might have beneficial effects. You can't tell if you're a slow or fast metabolizer without a genetic test."
AHMED EL-SOHEMY, assistant professor, Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, department of nutritional sciences, U of T
"You don't want to just quit cold turkey. Start by cutting your caffeinated coffee with decaf - say 3-to-1 for the first week and then progressively decreasing the caffeine. Decaf is not a long-term option, as there are other chemicals in it that cause problems. Coffee substitutes are an alternative - made from dandelion root, chicory, barley. These nourish your adrenal glands. To do this further, make a tincture of two or three herbs that are adaptogens, such as ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom or artist's conk or licorice, combined with a circulatory stimulant like cayenne or rosemary and a neurovasodilator such as ginkgo.
MONIKA GHENT, herbalist, Toronto
"I often suggest that patients drink an extra glass of water for every cup of caffeinated beverage they drink. Caffeinated drinks can also be a huge trigger of irritable bowel syndrome. It can be hard to realize this because if you have coffee for five days in a row, your body may feel fine after the first three days, but on day four and five you end up with diarrhea or a stomach ache. Recent studies have linked coffee consumption to a reduced risk of developing diabetes. This may be true, but decaffeinated coffee's been shown to be even more effective in this regard. The other apparent health benefit of coffee is the antioxidants, but people should get these from fruits and vegetables!"
MORGAN WINTON, naturopath, Toronto
"What happens when people consume caffeine regularly is that during the night their bodies eliminate the caffeine while they sleep, and every morning they find themselves going through low-grade withdrawal. The symptoms include lethargy sluggishness, impaired concentration, irritability, headaches, nausea and feeling seriously ill. About 50 per cent of people have no symptoms, and about 13 per cent have severe ones. Caffeine itself has no life-threatening health risks. However, several medical conditions are made worse by it, including anxiety, insomnia and some types of stomach and heart problems. Pregnant women should abstain or use it very moderately. If your doctor has not recommended that you cut it out, caffeine consumption is a reasonable adult decision. If you do want to quit, cut it out gradually over a couple of weeks."
ROLAND GRIFFITHS, professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience, John Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland