Brian Palmer of Slate sounds like he’s as fed up with observational studies about coffee’s benefits and coffee’s harms as we are.
He published a piece, “Shut Up and Sip: Coffee is neither good nor bad for you. Now you may go.” It makes me think of the book (cover image at right) written by my friend, Robert Davis, PhD. You should read Palmer’s entire Slate piece yourself, so I’ll only offer this one excerpt:
“A century’s worth of research proves that coffee’s effects on human health are marginal at most. Unless you belong to some particularly sensitive group, the choice to drink or abstain will neither shorten nor lengthen your life in a noticeable way. If there’s a lesson to be had from 100 years of studying this question, it is this: Look hard enough for something to worry about, and you’ll find it—even if it’s not there.”
Why does this matter? Maybe it was best summarized in a comment left by a Slate reader:
“I’m so tired of “studies” showing this or that is either good or bad for you. The yin & yang of these studies, coffee is good, coffee is bad, tea is good, tea is bad, egg were virtual poison during the 80’s & 90’s and now that everybody is on a protein kick, eggs are manna from heaven. Now carbs are evil but there for awhile bagles are the choice de jour for a “healthy” post workout meal, now people would shun you and run skreetching into the streets if you offered them a refined carb.”
The credibility of the science – and of the journalism – is threatened by miscommunication of observational data.
We’ve written about media claims about coffee more than 50 times on this website. If you want to get specific, check out some of the returns on this search results page.
We’ve coined the “coffee club – in which association ≠ causation.”
And we’ve referred to coffee becoming “the poster child for abused translation of observational research.”
The importance of getting this correct is explained in our primer: “Observational Studies – Does the Language Fit the Evidence? Association Versus Causation.”
After reading all of this, as Slate’s Brian Palmer wrote, “Now you may go.” Thanks for listening/reading.