Coffee and Guinea Pigs


Recently, NCA CEO Bill Murray wrote about how to understand the good vs. not-so-good research in health headlines.

Coffee is more popular than tap water in the U.S. (according to the 2016 NCDT), and it’s one of the most researched beverages in the world. The problem is, a lot of information can lead to a lot of misinformation.

Not all research is created equal. Potential outliers aside, even studies conducted with the best intentions may have serious methodological flaws (like recall bias).

Now the latest headlines are giving us another example: A new study suggests that caffeine consumption may cause short-term hearing loss ….in guinea pigs.


The scientific flaws here include the massive doses of caffeine (equivalent to 12 cups of coffee gulped all at once), and that these doses were administered by injection rather than orally, which alters how the body processes the chemical.

Of course, guinea pigs are not humans. Not only are they physiologically different, they can’t explain what exactly they’re experiencing. But these details don’t grab people’s attention when skimming the story – which seems especially compelling, considering how well coffee and music pair together. So the findings may suggest further investigation, but they’re certainly not conclusive.

Unfortunately, science has not yet been optimized for Twitter. Today’s news cycle is driven by an endless stream of social media sound bites. And without context and nuance, we’re just left with confusion.

Of course, always see a doctor if you have any medical concerns. But for now, take comfort in the fact that drinking coffee continues to be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about coffee, caffeine, and health, visit the Coffee and Me website

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