Coffee Can Save Your Life

Coffee can save your life. I know it's true because I read it in the newspaper, and even though I write for something closely akin to a newspaper it still hasn't dissuaded me from believing every word I see in print.I know you've heard a lot about the ill effects drinking coffee can have. I'm not talking about the shaky hands, the jerky Tourettes-like head motions, the darting eyes and the stained teeth that make people think you're a used car salesman.No, these are the news reports that are invariably followed by a film at eleven equating Juan Valdez with Josef Mengele because drinking coffee may--if the moon is in the proper phase--cause birth defects, breast cancer, iron deficiency anemia, high blood pressure and/or heart disease. It's enough to keep you awake at night.But now comes the good news. A study in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine (motto: Read two issues and call us in the morning) has found that women who drink coffee are less likely to commit suicide than those who don't. Really. Scientists warn, however, that before we turn our Prozac in for a can of Folger's instant crystals we need to be careful how we interpret the results, since some of the depressed patients may have been told not to drink coffee, some may have killed themselves because they ran out of coffee and others may just have been too damned wired to fill out the questionnaire.This doesn't mean coffee gets off Scot free, which by the way, shouldn't be mistaken for a new line of perfumeless toilet paper.What it does means is that while coffee may yet kill you, it will do it slowly and without messy personal intervention on your part. It won't need the help of a gun, an unlit oven or the repeated playing of Michael Bolton records, which oddly enough is both a way to commit suicide as well as a reason to do it.This study will, of course, revolutionize the suicide hotline industry as one by one Starbucks buys out the various crisis intervention centers around the country, replacing them with a nationwide 24-hour emergency delivery service specializing in double Lithium mocha lattes. It will give new meaning to the Maxwell House slogan "Good to the last drop" while as a brand name Chock Full of Nuts will be only slightly less prophetic than their claim to be "that heavenly coffee."But coffee is far from the only food that has the potential to kill you. At various times, and depending on the phase and depth of their sadistic tendencies, scientists have warned us against eating steaks, doughnuts, shellfish, pasta, starches, carbohydrates, proteins, Playdoh and silicone breast implants except as an appetizer before a formal state dinner. They've also told us to watch out for Mexican food, Italian food, fast food and any meal that contains the word food or even the letters f, o, or d. But even with all this they've neglected to warn us about the most dangerous food of all: the Chinese hot pot.The Chinese hot pot, in case you haven't had the dining experience, is a lot like fondue except there's no pot of oil and everything's already cooked. Basically it's a big bowl of soup with lots of stuff in it. This may seem pretty safe, especially since our mothers have traditionally ladled soup down our throats whenever we were sick in the hopes that we'd crave real food so much we'd quit faking and go to school so they could play bridge in peace. But it turns out that last year over 100 people were killed by explosions in hot pot restaurants in China, over a third of them in the Sichuan province alone.The article I saw didn't explain why this might be, but it would be easy to conjecture that the customers spontaneously combusted because the government forced the restaurants to stop putting opium in the hot pots. This is the honest truth. It seems many hot pot restaurants have taken to adding opium poppy shells to their food, much like the Cajuns add okra to gumbo except, of course, okra has no opium content while the poppy shells do.Since the foremost mission of any government is to make sure its citizens get as little enjoyment out of life as possible, the Chinese Ministry of Internal Trade demanded that the restaurants stop this practice. Forty-two of them complied, sixty-three nodded off while reading the edict, and the rest of them have changed to another seasoning, adopting the advertising slogan "We put the pot in hot pot."But all of this should be taken with a grain of salt, which according to the latest government study is three times the maximum allowable adult daily intake unless you want food to taste good. It seems every time a study comes out and says something is good for you, like oat bran, it's only a matter of time until another study says it tastes like raw sewage and besides, it really doesn't do you any good anyway.This proves that science is not infallible. It also proves that coffee is safer than Michael Bolton. But what it doesn't answer, is just how hot the hot pot got if the hot pot did get hot. Excuse me, could you pass the poppy shells?

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