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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, May 24, 2000

This study is good
to the last drop

COFFEE combats Parkinson's Disease, is the latest health news out of the science world. And, in this case, the world is on our doorstep because Hawaii researchers uncovered this fabulous information.

This is one of those "bad things are good for you" kind of reports that people love so much. The trick is to forget anything else you've read or heard about a particular substance and go with the latest news. I seem to remember being told in the past that coffee does everything from stunt your growth to make your eyebrows fall off.

Coffee has generally been regarded as a bad thing because it tastes good and, when consumed to excess, makes you fidget, talk rapidly and torment co-workers with rabid, hysterical reviews of the previous night's TV shows.

A Honolulu research team, however, studied more than 8,000 Japanese men from a heart program and found that caffeine may reduce the risk of Parkinson's. Parkinson's is brain disease that generally afflicts older people, causing them to shake involuntarily. It has been in the news lately because actor Michael J. Fox, who isn't particularly old, has it and that scares the bejesus out of younger people.

The fact is, no one knows what causes it, which is why it is studied. In the Hawaii case, researchers found that people who consumed about five cups of coffee a day were less likely to get Parkinson's then those who didn't.

QUAFFING five cups a day is out of my league. After the first two, I'd have the shakes so bad the next three cups would go into my lap, which four out of five scientists agree hurts like the dickens.

But many people live for these studies. It gives them a reason to indulge in certain substances. Red wine is now officially good for you. Hawaii's legalizing the evil weed marijuana for medical use. You can even lose weight by consuming nothing but fat, we've found.

The Hawaii caffeine study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, so it's probably legit. At least more legit than if it were published in "Juan Valdez Magazine, Official Publication of the Colombian Coffee Growers Association."

Some people are skeptical of these kinds of studies. For instance, someone who drinks a lot of coffee might not drink a lot of whiskey. How do you know it's not the lack of whiskey instead of the ingestion of caffeine that's doing the trick?

There were studies that showed women with silicon breast implants were more likely to get cancer than other women. Then someone figured out that women with breast implants also were more likely to drink, smoke, party, wear more makeup, take strange supplements and generally be preoccupied with their bodies. So the cancer could be due to the breast implants or any of the other weird things they were doing to themselves.

I appreciate the caffeine study of 8,000 Japanese men. What I'd really like to see, however, is a study of 8,000 46-year-old newspaper columnists that shows consuming large amounts of everything from cheeseburgers to cheap white wine makes them impervious to germs, devilishly handsome, disarmingly suave, incredibly wise and likely to live to a healthy, ripe old age with tons of money to burn.

Now that you're done with the coffee study, do you research guys think you can get busy on that project?

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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