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CULTURE WATCH : Imagine What Espresso Can Do

March 17, 1994|PAMELA WARRICK

Dying for a cup of coffee?

Researchers say some people may be doing just that.

According to a recent study on "Coffee, Tea and Mortality" in the Annals of Epidemiology, coffee drinkers may be less likely to commit suicide than those who do not imbibe.

What's more, researchers found that the risk of suicide seemed to decrease as coffee consumption increased. (The relationship between suicide and tea drinking, however, appeared to be a tepid one.)

The report is based on a 10-year study of 128,000 Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California. While conceding that the link between coffee and suicide could be spurious, chief researcher Dr. Arthur Klatsky has called for more study with depressed patients to pin down the relationship.

But no, it's not because gallons of coffee make a person too jittery to load a gun or uncap a bottle of tranquilizers. Only "caffeine-naive" people suffer the racing pulse and shakiness that can come from a big dose of caffeine, says Klatsky. Chronic coffee drinkers experience only pleasant stimulation.

Researchers confirmed that anyone with heart disease should continue to avoid excessive coffee breaks, limiting consumption to less than four cups per day.

And while Klatsky isn't recommending that depressed people rush to the nearest cappuccino bar for self-medication, his team's findings do give new meaning to the phrase "Wake up and smell the coffee."

It could be a lifesaver.

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