Does anyone remember (back in the 70s I think) those “you will die” headlines in newspapers, the breathless “woe is us” pontificating on TV and radio? Then in the late 90s or early 2000s, a very small item, hidden in the back pages of the newspaper (don’t know if it ever made TV or radio) said something along the line of “Oops! We (researchers) made a mistake. You won’t get cancer after all.”

Another Oops! came as a result of the the World Health Organization classifying coffee as a likely carcinogen in 1991 because of a possible link to drinking coffee. Turns out the dumbos doing the research didn’t notice that smokers drink a lot of coffee and it was smoking that increased the risk of cancer, not drinking coffee. As it is an international organization, it took the WHO only 25 years to admit it made a mistake and coffee was removed from the list of carcinogens in 2016.

Something like that seems to be playing out in the media today about the health benefits, or lack of them, of coffee. Since researchers are obviously too stupid to look at thousands of years of history of coffee drinking around the world and conclude that since death rates are somewhat less than the Black Death maybe it is not too bad. Instead, they need to resort to machine learning and massive amounts of data to figure out whether coffee has health benefits or not.

A New York Times article describes how a new analysis of existing data is trying to answer the question of, “What are the factors in daily life that impact heart health that we don’t know about that could potentially be changed to lower risk.” Why do we want to know that? Because 20% of Americans will have a heart problem and even small changes in behavior could save lives.

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University says, “I think we can say with good certainty it’s not bad for you.” How is that for a ringing endorsement of coffee’s benefits!

PS: 15 years in academia gave me a pretty low opinion of most researchers and their work. I have an even lower opinion of the mass media.

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