Friday, May 15, 2015

Nutritional Nonsense: from Coffee to Cancer

I recently spotted, this question on Quora: "What are the nutritional benefits of consuming coffee on a daily basis?" And I thought, now there's an interesting challenge for the 'science of nutrition'. So, I took it upon myself to answer with current nutritional science - according to Wiki, and to add some comments about the lack of science.  My answer, by the way, has already been down-voted.

What are the nutritional benefits of coffee? There were, of course, many answers, ranging from antioxidants, to protection against diabetes and dementia, to the nonsensical 'it gives you energy' - coffee has no calories, therefore it cannot give you energy.

What are the nutritional benefits of coffee according to nutritional science? I typed the 'nutrition of coffee' into Google and got the following from Wiki:
Coffee: Nutrition Facts Amount Per 1 fl oz (29.6 g)100 grams 6 fl oz (178 g)1 cup (8 fl oz) (237 g)100 grams   - Calories 0

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated fat 0 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Potassium 49 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 0 g 0%
Dietary fiber 0 g 0%
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0.1 g 0%
Caffeine 40 mg
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 0%
Vitamin D 0%
Vitamin B-6 0%
Vitamin B-12 0%
Magnesium 0%

* Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
My Notes:
1. Coffee has zero calories.  It is not a source of energy, although it might 'energize' you. Actually, according to the above list, coffee has a small amount of protein, and proteins contain calories.
2. Most of the items on the list of nutrients have zero value, indicating that they are NOT PRESENT in coffee.  This is a telling fact about many nutritional labels, the presence of non-ingredients.
3. The only nutritional contents of coffee, according to the science of nutrition, are sodium, potassium, protein, caffeine.
4. Many ingredients of coffee, are simply ignored by the nutritional analysis, because they are 'not on the list' of nutrients that have been deemed important by nutritional scientists. Studies of the benefits of coffee cite anti-oxidants and other chemicals, but they are 'not on the list'.
5. The listing for "Total Carbohydrate" has an error, even though carbohydrates are not present in coffee. But that's not enough error, The list of ingredients shows a 'Daily Value' of zero percent.  But there is no Daily Value for carbohydrates, so a Daily Value score of zero is nonsense.
6. The nutrient list contains 'Saturated Fats' and 'Monounsaturated Fats' even though coffee contains no saturated fats and no monounsaturated fats. Presumably this is because we used to believe that saturated fats were unhealthy.  Science has recently proven this theory wrong - and also proven that the benefits believed to come from monosaturated fats are illusory. But much of published science has not yet caught up to the latest research.
7. The nutrient list includes 'Trans Fats', even though coffee does not contain any trans fats, and trans fats are not nutrients - they are toxic chemicals.
8. The largest part of coffee is, duh.... water.  But water is not listed as a nutrient, even though the theoretical 'Daily Value' of water is 8 glasses.
9. According to Wiki, if you consume a diet of "2000 calories" of coffee daily, you will receive almost no nutrients.  And... according to Wiki, coffee contains zero calories, so a 2000 calorie diet requires drinking a few million cups a day, for nothing. Or adding milk and sugar.

In short, the nutritional value of coffee given by Google, from Wiki is mostly bunk, error prone nonsense, full of empty non-facts, non-ingredients, missing the most common ingredient - water, and missing any ingredients that are actually studied research into the benefits of coffee. At the same time as it misses most of the healthy ingredients of coffee, it lists many items that are not present at all.

Frankly, much of the current science of nutrition is similar BUNK, and this question and answer provides ample proof.

But this is not the only example.  Let's get more serious about the science of nutrition.

What foods cause cancer, and what foods protect against cancer?

This is a serious, important question. What does science have for an answer?  A recent meta-study produced this informative graphic, from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It seems clear from the graphic, what everyone already knows.  Everything causes cancer.  And everything protects against cancer. Coffee causes cancer, coffee protects against cancer, and one study says we're not sure. That's the current state of nutritional science.

How can this happen? Why does this happen? There are two main causes.

Studies of Illness

Health is whole, illness - is a hole in your health.  Healthiness and illness are like 'light and darkness'. If someone spends their entire life studying darkness, they will know nothing about colour, saturation, hue, brightness, heat, wavelengths, rainbows, etc.  Their knowledge will be limited to various shades of black and grey, dark and darker. And so it is with health and illness. Many scientists spend their entire lifetimes studying illness, measuring illness, searching for illness and trying to 'kill' illness, or if killing it is not possible, to 'treat' the symptoms of illness.

But we know little about healthiness, there is no science of healthiness.

There are no scientists who study healthiness. There is no science of healthicine. Alice and Zizi provide the classic example.  Alice and Zizi are two women, two friends, neither of whom has any illness.  They are both 'healthy' according to modern medical science. But the question arises:

Who is healthier, Alice - or Zizi?

The more we look into this question, the more we realize that we have no tools, no techniques, no science to measure healthiness.  Alice and Ziz have no illness, no signs and symptoms of illness, so in theory, they are both perfectly healthy.  But we know this is not true. One of them is probably 'healthier' than the other. But which one? A historical analysis might show that Alice gets more colds than the other, for example, and that their colds last longer. Is that a measure of healthiness? And Zizi might be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.  Such is the nature of cancer diagnosis. But today, we have no tools to answer the question:  "Who is healthier, Alice or Zizi?"

Nutritional studies are based entirely on illness. As a result, we have four scientific studies showing that coffee prevents cancers, one study that shows no harm or benefit, and four studies showing that coffee cause cancer.  Nutritional science in action.  Bunk.


When we attempt to study healthiness by measuring single things in isolation, we get nonsense.

Attempting to measure the benefits of coffee by analysis of the individual contents, and ignoring the contents that are 'not on our list' result in superficial analysis and nonsense.

Attempting to measure the effects of 'coffee' on cancer, in isolation from everything else in the diet, results in nonsense.

And the proof is there for everyone to see.

What is the way out?

Nutritional science finds some truths about nutrition.  Unfortunately, many of the 'truths' that are found are simplistic nonsense, useless to anyone who actually wants to find health.

If studies of illness, and reductionist studies cannot find the truth about nutrition, how can we find the answers?

The answer can only be found in studies of healthiness: healthicine. When we begin to study healthiness in earnest, we will begin to see many truths that are invisible today.  When we turn away from studies of illness, the darkness, we will begin to see the light.  There is a lot to learn.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: