Friday, September 8, 2017

Annals of Derp: Silliest Headline Award

Café La Pallaresa, Barcelona, via Yelp.

Raw Story, picked up from Good News Network:

Drinking coffee might make you live 64% longer than those who don’t: study

So, suppose coffee drinkers generally make it to 82 before they die, those who abstain would be dead at 50?

Happily, no. You can feel sorry for those poor souls who don't drink coffee, but not that sorry. In a very large sample of Spanish university graduates who were an average of 37.7 years old in 1999, those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were 64% less likely to die of all causes from ischemic heart disease to bathtub accidents over the period of a ten-year study, though an overwhelming majority did not die at all during that time (mortality was 337 out of 19,896, or 1.6% of the total; if I've got the arithmetic right, approximately 205 non–coffee drinkers in the sample and 132 indulgers died in those ten years, which is absolutely a significant difference, but not a big number). It doesn't even mean that the abstainers died younger. But if they did, it was definitely less than 32 years. That news story is a totally false and scientifically illiterate account of what the study said.

Incidentally, drawing on my extensive knowledge of Mediterranean cultures based on several months spent in a small town in central Italy a long time ago, people in Spain don't drink coffee at home, and don't drink it in their cubicles or at their factory stations. People who drink four or more cups of coffee per day in Spain are people who stay in the pavement café or bar-cafeteria before work longer than the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to swallow your first café solo or cortado to drink another one and get a bite of something sweet, and come back for more before lunch. They hang out. I'll bet this peculiar little effect has as much to do with that extremely low-intensity, low-risk socializing as it does with the biochemistry of the beverage.

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