- Pumping Irony -

PUMPING IRONY: Coffee or Cicadas?

Weighing the pros and cons of coffee consumption.

I started drinking coffee when I was 16, around the same time I discovered the forbidden joys of tobacco. My friends and I would wander into some all-night diner after a movie or following some random mischief and order up a round of joe — black — while lighting up like we knew what we were doing. The coffee would land amidst a cloud of smoke, and we’d lunge in unison for the sugar. The resulting syrup would keep us going for hours.

Cigarettes gradually lost their allure; I scrunched out my last Marlboro the day before my 22nd birthday, 41 years ago. But caffeine was a tougher habit to kick. I needed a couple cups in the morning or I’d head out the door with a nasty headache.

No big deal, really; it’s not like I was going to run out of coffee.

Then, about 20 years ago, my afternoons began to be routinely interrupted by sudden heart palpitations. Out of nowhere, my heart would begin racing and my mind would attach itself to calculating the odds that I might be having a heart attack. It really suppressed my productivity.

My Lovely Wife sent me off to our local homeopath, who listened to my story and summed things up quite succinctly: My fairly modest caffeine intake was messing with my ticker. The solution, he said, was very simple: Stop drinking coffee.

The headache thing made this a little more complicated than he realized, but he sent me home with a small tube of coffea crudea — homeopathic caffeine — which somehow painlessly weaned me from caffeine within the week. Today, I still avoid brewed coffee (even decaf), but an occasional whole-milk latte is a sublime reminder of the comfort dispensed by the beloved bean.

This is not a problem, really. A guy can get used to most anything if he puts his mind to it. Like these cicadas in my ears, which whine at a pitch in the vicinity of High C pretty much all the time. No big deal. But, now I hear that there may be cure for this condition, better known as tinnitus: Drink more coffee.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston dug through data on the 65,000 women who participated in the legendary Nurse’s Health Study II and found that those who drank more coffee were less likely to develop tinnitus. “In our study, individuals who had higher caffeine intake, usually in the form of coffee, had a lower risk of subsequently developing tinnitus than those with the lowest intake of caffeine,” lead study author Gary Curhan, MD, told Reuters.

This might be good news for Starbucks, but it doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me: Get back on friendly terms with Joe and risk cardiac arrest or stay the no-caffeine course and retain my free ticket to the cicada concert for the foreseeable future.

Like I say, a guy can get used to most anything.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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