Death Cup 2: The Snow Job

Posted on November 4, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you are a coffee drinker, you were taken aback by the recent “4 cup a day early death syndrome” (4CAD/EDS) press release. It is not truly a scientific study; it has all the earmarks of a publicity stunt to enhance a researcher’s status or give the research group some credibility. Basically, it is just another attempt to manipulate public perception. IT IS A SNOW JOB.

True confession: I am NOT omniscient.  In fact, ignorance is that warm security blanket shielding me from untold amounts of information that serve no purpose other than to scare the pants off me. For instance, I love nature shows and finding out all sorts of things about the structure in which I exist. What do the science channels insist on telling me? This stuff:

  • Yellowstone Park, USA, is the site of a gigantic volcano caldera that could blow anytime (it is a thousand years or so overdue), destroying most of the United States and crippling civilization all around the globe…   or was that Krakatoa or Iceland… 
  • A rock or something icy flying about the solar system could slam into the Earth at any time, Ditto the results… 
  • A star going super-nova out there in the galaxy somewhere could send a tsunami-like wave of particles across our solar orbit and strip the atmosphere from Earth…

I can’t do anything about any of that.  WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW IT?  And then there was that Cote de Pablo thing with NCIS…

On the other hand, Dr. Snow-Job* apparently wants people to think he is omniscient.  His comments for the press release acknowledged that many other studies run counter to his heart-stopping announcement.  His justification for the counter conclusions — AND I PARAPHRASE WHAT I HEARD as Lavie crowded the microphone and said…

  •   “I…   CONCLUDED!  Therefore…   IT IS.  So, don’t bother me with your silly requests for corroborating data.” 

I don’t want to sound like that, so, let me tell you straight up where I stand on this matter of coffee consumption:

  • COFFEE.  BLACK coffee.  HOT black coffee.  In a ceramic cup, foam cup, metal cup, plastic cup, mug, open top or sip through lid.  More than 4 cups a day, every day, every week.  For more than a couple of decades, Outdoors in cold rainy weather loading/unloading trucks, and, while bored outta my gourd on the long, 7a-5p office tours.  COFFEE.  Black COFFEE.  Hot black COFFEE.  That’s my bias, and, I’m sticking to it.

Let me share with you the essence of the recent scary headline, designed by others to alter your perceptions, but, mostly, to get you to notice all those pop-up ads on the Yahoo, Google, et al home pages and the blog website.  The scary, please-notice-my-popups headline is first:

  • More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim experts (this was the big headline)
  • High consumption raises premature death chance in younger people (this was the little headline)
  • The findings come from a U.S. study of 43,727 individuals aged 20 to 87
  • It is suspected that excessive consumption may adversely affect metabolism
  • By Jenny Hope, Published:  12:16 EST, 15 August 2013, Updated 19:27 EST, 15 August 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health **

Those are all the facts you can expect to find in this article.  The rest of this stuff is the product of my disturbed cynicism.

My initial reaction to the calculated gloomy announcement:

  • “…claim experts.”  — Only ONE alleged expert was cited.
  • “…premature death chance in younger people.”  — Clarified later as under age 55.  Are you kidding me?  What over-the-hill 30-year-old considers 55 as young?
  • A (16-year) US Study of 43,727 people aged 20 to 87.  —  A lot of years, a large number of subjects, and a wide age range to give the feel of thorough procedural veracity.  (O-kay…   so the 20 year olds are now 36, and the 87 year olds who started the study are 103 years old today…   right?)
  • “It is suspected that…” — Wasn’t the point of the announcement to PROVE THE CLAIM rather than CLAIM THE PROOF?

Are you Homo sapiens sapiens, or simply H. sap…   a deep thinker, or your run-of-the-mill gullible rube?

  • Taxonomically, Homo sapiens sapiens is the upgraded version of Homo sapiens neanderthalis (or some cousin thereof).  H. sap. is often — and sometimes aptly — used to abbreviate that classification.

If you are Homo sapiens sapiens (the one who thinks for himself) , there are certain Things You Should Know (TYSK) about this and all publicized so-called studies.  (This is your chance to show you are smarter than a cave man.)  I will list them here, and, in the next segment, elaborate on each of them.

  • TYSK 1.  What are the stakes for the publicizing researcher?
  • TYSK 2.  What were the original parameters of the exercise…   study…   parameters of the study?
  • TYSK 3.  It is the negative, unsubstantiated claims that hit the BIG headline.
  • TYSK 4.  They are intermittent and follow a predictable cycle:  good, bad, good, bad, good…   you get the drift.
  • TYSK 5.  The timing of the releases and why they are almost always COUNTER to current public thinking.

Okay.  You have enough time to grab another cup or two of coffee before the next installment, Death Cup 3.

__________________

*Dr. Carl Lavie, a co-author of the alleged study results.  Sorry, Doc, but all authoritarians-for-a-buck get a moniker in this blog.

**In the wake of Dr. Snow-Job’s announcement, there were many articles posted on-line about “early coffee death” making it look like a landslide of evidence damning coffee drinking.  THERE WAS ONLY ONE STUDY commented on by dozens of bloggers and journalists.  Just about the only difference in all those stories was the name of the blog posting its version  —  and the pop-ups the various oportunistic blogs waived in front of you.   

Series references:  premature death, excessive coffee consumption, Dr. Carl Lavie, Dr. Euan Paul

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