Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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From mice and CGA to humans and coffee: I won’t be forsaking my Bodum just yet


Now that everybody’s all in a tizzy about the latest evidence that coffee is bad for us maybe it’s time to actually look at the study. News reports are stating that “five cups of coffee or more per day linked to weight gain, increased diabetes risk”. Not exactly.

The study used mice as subjects. As discussed before, mice are not humans and results in mice may differ significantly from results in humans. In addition to this, the study didn’t actually look at coffee consumption. No, they looked at the effect of one component present in coffee. That’s like taking sugar out of an orange, giving it to mice, and then stating that oranges are making us obese. One of the greatest obstacles for the supplement industry is that individual nutrients and other substances contained in foods do not have the same effects when they’re consumed in isolation. That’s why us dietitians are always yammering on about it being best to get as many of your nutrients as you can from whole foods.

Yet another issue with the study is that they used three groups of mice: one fed a “normal diet”, a second fed a “high-fat diet”, and the third fed “a high-fat diet + CGA” (CGA is chlorogenic acid, the component in coffee that they were studying). They only looked at the effects of the CGA on mice consuming a high-fat diet. Thus, we don’t know what effects of CGA might have been on mice consuming other types of diets. Admittedly, the mice taking the CGA fared worse than the mice on the high-fat diet alone. However, as the headline pointed out, the negative consequences of CGA consumption were only seen in mice consuming the equivalent of CGA from five or more cups of coffee a day.

This study tells me that CGA in isolation, in relatively high quantities, in mice consuming high-fat diets, may contribute to weight gain and associated risks. A great deal more research is needed before we can draw any similar conclusions regarding human consumption of coffee. For now, take this dose of reality and wash it down with a good cup of coffee.