Death Cup 4: Was coffee study faked and misleading?

Posted on December 30, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

ABOUT 76% WAS FABRICATED by my calculation, based on the article’s wording.

Now that I have your attention, let’s get the preliminaries out of the way.  Source refresher:  an online article on August 15, 2013, by Jenny Hope, put up at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health, on a blog called MailOnLine.

Tossing a few stinky red herrings around, Dr. Snow-Job (a.k.a., Dr. Lavie of the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans) said:

  • “There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity* and some even suggesting** beneficial effects.”
  • Boy, if I read about results like I found*, I would avoid the problem even without definitive evidence.  (It is too aggravating for me to re-read that story, so I sorta just paraphrased that last comment.)

Dr. Snow-Job, knowing his claim differs from the vast majority of earlier studies, emphasized some studies alleging coffee toxicity* while trivializing the many studies claiming its benefits.  Grasping for further validity, he off-handedly alludes to a “genetic coffee addition” that may make some people vulnerable to his alleged harmful effects…

  • So, Dr. Snow…   any ideas about what this gene was doing for about 100,000 years while hanging around our double helices waiting for Folgers, Maxwell House, Maryland Club, Community, and Starbucks to show up so it could take a coffee break?
  • …I mean, other than just being available to prop up your so-called study?

And yet, through all of these “suggestive” studies, this multi-billion dollar a year industry continues to supply hundreds of millions of customers who HAVE NOT been dropping like flies.

Dr. Euan Paul, Executive Director of the British Coffee Association, at the other end of the chain Dr. Snow-Job rattled, rebutted the “study” with:

  • “…the study’s limitations may have skewed the findings.
  • “Previous studies have found either NO LINK between coffee consumption and heart deaths, or a POSITIVE EFFECT ,” he added.
  • “Other factors such as smoking and poor fitness could partly explain the link with premature death.
  • “There is a growing body of data which suggests that coffee is perfectly safe when consumed in moderation — four to five cups a day — and as part of a balanced diet.”

Now, there is something I DON’T understand.  Controversy is the life blood of the “responsible news reporting” industry (a.k.a., The Big P).  That stuff really drives media sales.  According to

  • …Dr. Lavie, 4 to 5 cups a day is excessive consumption.
  • …Dr. Paul, 4 to 5 cups a day is moderate consumption.
  • …Dean (that be me), 4 to 5 cups is time to start my 2nd pot of coffee…   this morning.

So, hey, all you PAU grads, where is the 2-week ongoing coverage to define (according to the media) excessive vs. moderate consumption?  I am sure you experts in yellow journalism could whip up something between your morning and afternoon coffee breaks.  Dr. Lavie won’t mind if you throw his name around a little.  After all, it’s just more publicity.

Dr. Lavie actually took time to run up a list of statistics based on his…   uh…   study.  I found that odd, since I always thought you had to have real numbers from which to create viable statistics.

  • Snow-Job’s stated age parameter for the study is 20-87 years, which implies a study span of 67 years.
  • Dr. Snow’s stated study length is 16 years.
  • The difference between the “real years” (16) and the “implied years” (67) is 51 years.  Thus, 76% of the claimed study range had to be recounted from the participants’ memories.   That is a polite way of saying that the claimed input data would have to be faked.
  • Don’t get me started on the total lack of breakdown on that 43-thousand plus participant figure…   and, when they quit participating because of death or lack of interest.

Cynicism — my general outlook on existence — is held in low esteem by many of my fellow Homo sapiens.  I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE IT:

  • Is the 20-87 age range the starting ages of the subjects or their ages at the end of the study?  If starting ages, the 87-year-olds finished at 103 years of age, and the 20-year-olds at age 36; if it is their ending ages, then the 20-year-olds began the study at age 4.  AM I BEING OVERLY CRITICAL?
  • The 20-year-old starters quit documenting at age 36, years before entering the dreaded death zone of 40-55 years of age (US Mortality Table, year 2011).  That means there is no recorded data on how their coffee-swilling may have influenced their longevity.
  • The over 55-year-old starters…   what can I say?  They started the study already free and clear of the Lavie Death Zone.  That entire group (How many?  What percent of the total?) left no recorded study data for their pre death-zone drinking habits.  In any case, they had all thumbed their noses at the “premature coffee death” hypothesis before they picked up that first pencil

So, Lavie, when you say you applied the results of the study to the under 55 age group to get an inordinate indication of premature deaths…   EXACTLY TO WHICH RESULTS WERE YOU REFERRING?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Doctor Euan Paul, Executive Director of the British Coffee Association, who has agreed to give you an encore reading of his objections to Lavie’s publicity stunt.  Doctor Paul, go ahead.

  • The study’s limitations may have skewed the results.”

Thank you, Sir, for stating the more than obvious in such concise terms.

Comparing the “study” to the US Mortality Table for year 2011 shows an interesting result: 

  • Lavie states 2,500 deaths during the 16 years of the study, with just under 1/3 of these from heart issues.  Annual average of these figures:  156 deaths, 46 from coronary causes.  Annual percentage of Lavie’s coronary related deaths:  29%
  • Death zone figures from the US Mortality Table for 2011 gives 1,852,355 deaths, with 597,689 of those coronary related.  Annual percentage of US coronary related deaths32%

Is it just me, or do the annual percentages show that Dr. Lavie of the Ochsner Medical Center, has just demonstrated —

  • the LONGEVITY BENEFITS of consuming 4 OR MORE cups of coffee per day?  

Since NO ONE on the planet Earth knows a given individual’s projected life span until that person dies, what god-like power gives Lavie or any other researcher the temerity to decree what is “premature” death?

___________

*Yeah, that would be Lavie’s own report.

**He is appalled that other studies differ from his own’

***The Chicken Little ploy.  Tacit admission of bull shit?

______________________________________

Series references:  premature death, 4 cups a day, coffee, Dr. Carl Lavie, Dr. Euan Paul, faked study, cynicism, statistical death zone, researcher, coffee addiction gene, caffeine, health effects, longevity benefits

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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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Coffee? 4 Cups A Day? You gonna die

Posted on September 2, 2013. Filed under: Health Studies, Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

…but, even if you DON’T drink coffee, you GONNA DIE anyway.

Your proverb for the day:  It ain’t poison unless it kills you within a week. Anything taking longer than that is just what floats your boat.

DIE, coffee drinker, DIE!  …Ooooooooooooooo!  Sounds like a vengeful spirit out of Hollywood, doesn’t it?  Relax.  It’s just one of your biennial “scientific study” publicity releases.  I guess those are okay, since most of us don’t have the time to take off from work and spend 5 or 10 years without pay asking people what they did before they died.  But, these unpaid researchers patiently tally, categorize, enter data into spreadsheets, divine what it all means, figure out which mathematical tact will “prove” what they set out to prove in the first place…   Yeah!  I didn’t buy it, either.

Your words for the day:

  • existence = (consider it) a sporting event
  • birth = “WAKE UP!  You’re at bat.”
  • life = going for extra bases
  • death = you got tagged (“You’re outta here!”)
  • the dugout = your basic hole in the ground

Source of today’s laugh:  an online article on August 15, 2013, by Jenny Hope, put up at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health on a blog called MailOnline.  (Aside to the author:  Usually, I refer to female journalists giving me a laugh like this as Jenny Stonebottom.  I will spare you, since your name is already “Jenny” and Jenny Hope sounds like a cutie.*)

The headline — the funny part.  “More than four cups of coffee a day puts you at risk of early death, claim experts.”

The big picture, if you have been too busy dealing with life to have noticed:  One gets BORN; one LIVES LIFE as events, circumstance, and personal whims permit; then, one DIES.  You have no control over your birth; you have less control over the progress of your life than you like to think; and — though some might fiddle with the “how” — one DIES.  No refunds.  You can’t avoid death.

You only go around once in life, so grab some gusto while you can(It’s not plagiarism!  It is — loosely — from a beer commercial a few years ago, but, I don’t remember which one.  Al Gore’s information highway can answer that for you…   my smart phone is on the fritz.)

You survived the first year of LIFE.  Consider yourself on base.  From here on, the name of the game is (1) don’t get tagged out, and, (2) try to have some fun.  (Yeah, I know, it’s kind of ironic — avoid getting tagged and sent to the dugout early while you round the bases, but, when you reach home, you get sent to the dugout anyway.  Don’t dwell on that.  Concentrate on enjoying that trip to second base.)

But, enjoyment comes with a price.  You enjoy scattering your toys while you play, but, come evening, there are the nagging voices of parents saying, “Clean up your mess before you go to bed.”  You enjoy hanging out at the mall with your buds after school scarfing down McDonald’s French fries, but, there is this other group that has figured out LIFE ACCORDING TO THEM and are now suing McDonald’s to prevent YOU from buying and enjoying what YOU enjoy.  You move on over-the-hill (you know…   your 30th birthday) and become health conscious, so you take your vitamins, eat balanced meals, exercise more, take them antioxidants, and wash all that down with a cup of hot coffee…   or four.  And, those do-gooder groups line up at your door to straighten out your act:  you have the wrong balanced diet; you are exercising wrong; vitamins just might not be so good for you; antioxidants are not what they are cracked up to be.   That line extends around the block and you can’t make out who they all are, but, they will announce themselves soon enough…

…Uh, that was your cue, Doc.  Tell them of your fabulous finding that 55-year-old young people can expect to die before they are 55 if they drink 4 cups of coffee a day…

Yeah, I know, right?

  • The over-the-hill 30 year-old can’t blow his birthday candles out because his sides are splitting from finding out that 55 year-olds are called “young” for this study.
  • The record number of over 60 year-olds, who have been drinking 4 cups a day since they were 30, were once part of the “early death” squad claimed by our fame-seeking researcher.  Oh!  Now isn’t that thoughtful.  They are all hoisting a coffee toast to all you doomed 54 and below drinkers.

This article engendered 3 pages of 11×17 paper in 8 point type.  And, 15 cups of coffee.  I had to cut out 2.5 pages just to get this.  So, YES!  You can bet I have more to say on this subject.  (Excuse me.  I gotta hit the head.)

______________

* Okay.  Okay!  That was chauvinistic, sexist, and un-called for.  But, it stays.

_______________________________________

Next up:  lots more stuff about the hazards of coffee studies

Article references:  coffee, coffee study, coffee death, premature death, under 55, health risk, genetic coffee addition, antioxidant, Dr. Carl Lavie, Ochsner Medical Center, Dr. Euan Paul, Director of British Coffee Association.

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