The Invisible Addiction: Is It Time To Give Up Caffeine?

After years of starting the day with a tall morning coffee, followed by several glasses of green tea at intervals, and the occasional cappuccino after lunch, I quit caffeine, cold turkey. It was not something that I particularly wanted to do, but I had come to the reluctant conclusion that the story I was writing demanded it. Several of the experts I was interviewing had suggested that I really couldn’t understand the role of caffeine in my life – its invisible yet pervasive power – without getting off it and then, presumably, getting back on.

Roland Griffiths, one of the world’s leading researchers of mood-altering drugs, and the man most responsible for getting the diagnosis of “caffeine withdrawal” included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the bible of psychiatric diagnoses, told me he hadn’t begun to understand his own relationship with caffeine until he stopped using it and conducted a series of self-experiments. He urged me to do the same.

For most of us, to be caffeinated to one degree or another has simply become baseline human consciousness. Something like 90% of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, and the only one we routinely give to children (commonly in the form of fizzy drinks). Few of us even think of it as a drug, much less our daily use of it as an addiction. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, an altered state. It just happens to be a state that virtually all of us share, rendering it invisible.

The scientists have spelled out, and I had duly noted, the predictable symptoms of caffeine withdrawal: headache, fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, irritability, intense distress, loss of confidence and dysphoria. But beneath that deceptively mild rubric of “difficulty concentrating” hides nothing short of an existential threat to the work of the writer. How can you possibly expect to write anything when you can’t concentrate?

I postponed it as long as I could, but finally the dark day arrived. According to the researchers I’d interviewed, the process of withdrawal had actually begun overnight, while I was sleeping, during the “trough” in the graph of caffeine’s diurnal effects. The day’s first cup of tea or coffee acquires most of its power – its joy! – not so much from its euphoric and stimulating properties than from the fact that it is suppressing the emerging symptoms of withdrawal.

This is part of the insidiousness of caffeine. Its mode of action, or “pharmacodynamics”, mesh so perfectly with the rhythms of the human body that the morning cup of coffee arrives just in time to head off the looming mental distress set in motion by yesterday’s cup of coffee. Daily, caffeine proposes itself as the optimal solution to the problem caffeine creates.

At the coffee shop, instead of my usual “half caff”, I ordered a cup of mint tea. And on this morning, that lovely dispersal of the mental fog that the first hit of caffeine ushers into consciousness never arrived. The fog settled over me and would not budge. It’s not that I felt terrible – I never got a serious headache – but all day long I felt a certain muzziness, as if a veil had descended in the space between me and reality, a kind of filter that absorbed certain wavelengths of light and sound.

I was able to do some work, but distractedly. “I feel like an unsharpened pencil,” I wrote in my notebook. “Things on the periphery intrude, and won’t be ignored. I can’t focus for more than a minute.”

Over the course of the next few days, I began to feel better, the veil lifted, yet I was still not quite myself, and neither, quite, was the world. In this new normal, the world seemed duller to me. I seemed duller, too. Mornings were the worst. I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep. That reconsolidation of self took much longer than usual, and never quite felt complete.


Humanity’s acquaintance with caffeine is surprisingly recent. But it is hardly an exaggeration to say that this molecule remade the world. The changes wrought by coffee and tea occurred at a fundamental level – the level of the human mind. Coffee and tea ushered in a shift in the mental weather, sharpening minds that had been fogged by alcohol, freeing people from the natural rhythms of the body and the sun, thus making possible whole new kinds of work and, arguably, new kinds of thought, too.

By the 15th century, coffee was being cultivated in east Africa and traded across the Arabian peninsula. Initially, the new drink was regarded as an aide to concentration and used by Sufis in Yemen to keep them from dozing off during their religious observances. (Tea, too, started out as a little helper for Buddhist monks striving to stay awake through long stretches of meditation.) Within a century, coffeehouses had sprung up in cities across the Arab world. In 1570 there were more than 600 of them in Constantinople alone, and they spread north and west with the Ottoman empire.

The Islamic world at this time was in many respects more advanced than Europe, in science and technology, and in learning. Whether this mental flourishing had anything to do with the prevalence of coffee (and prohibition of alcohol) is difficult to prove, but as the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch has argued, the beverage “seemed to be tailor-​made for a culture that forbade alcohol consumption and gave birth to modern mathematics”.

In 1629 the first coffeehouses in Europe, styled on Arab and Turkish models, popped up in Venice, and the first such establishment in England was opened in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish immigrant. They arrived in London shortly thereafter, and proliferated: within a few decades there were thousands of coffeehouses in London; at their peak, one for every 200 Londoners.

To call the English coffeehouse a new kind of public space doesn’t quite do it justice. You paid a penny for the coffee, but the information – in the form of newspapers, books, magazines and conversation – was free. (Coffeehouses were often referred to as “penny universities”.) After visiting London coffeehouses, a French writer named Maximilien Misson wrote, “You have all Manner of News there; You have a good fire, which you may sit by as long as you please: You have a Dish of Coffee; you meet your Friends for the Transaction of Business, and all for a Penny, if you don’t care to spend more.”

London’s coffeehouses were distinguished one from another by the professional or intellectual interests of their patrons, which eventually gave them specific institutional identities. So, for example, merchants and men with interests in shipping gathered at Lloyd’s Coffee House. Here you could learn what ships were arriving and departing, and buy an insurance policy on your cargo. Lloyd’s Coffee House eventually became the insurance brokerage Lloyd’s of London. Learned types and scientists – known then as “natural philosophers” – gathered at the Grecian, which became closely associated with the Royal Society; Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley debated physics and mathematics here, and supposedly once dissected a dolphin on the premises.

The conversation in London’s coffee houses frequently turned to politics, in vigorous exercises of free speech that drew the ire of the government, especially after the monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles II, worried that plots were being hatched in coffeehouses, decided that the places were dangerous fomenters of rebellion that the crown needed to suppress. In 1675 the king moved to close down the coffeehouses, on the grounds that the “false, malicious and scandalous Reports” emanating therefrom were a “Disturbance of the Quiet and Peace of the Realm”. Like so many other compounds that change the qualities of consciousness in individuals, caffeine was regarded as a threat to institutional power, which moved to suppress it, in a foreshadowing of the wars against drugs to come.

But the king’s war against coffee lasted only 11 days. Charles discovered that it was too late to turn back the tide of caffeine. By then the coffeehouse was such a fixture of English culture and daily life – and so many eminent Londoners had become addicted to caffeine – that everyone simply ignored the king’s order and blithely went on drinking coffee. Afraid to test his authority and find it lacking, the king quietly backed down, issuing a second proclamation rolling back the first “out of princely consideration and royal compassion”.

It’s hard to imagine that the sort of political, cultural and intellectual ferment that bubbled up in the coffeehouses of both France and England in the 17th century would ever have developed in a tavern. The kind of magical thinking that alcohol sponsored in the medieval mind began to yield to a new spirit of rationalism and, a bit later, Enlightenment thinking.

French historian Jules Michelet wrote: “Coffee, the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain, which unlike other spirits, heightens purity and lucidity; coffee, which clears the clouds of the imagination and their gloomy weight; which illumines the reality of things suddenly with the flash of truth.”

To see, lucidly, “the reality of things”: this was, in a nutshell, the rationalist project. Coffee became, along with the microscope, telescope and the pen, one of its indispensable tools.


After a few weeks, the mental impairments of withdrawal had subsided, and I could once again think in a straight line, hold an abstraction in my head for more than two minutes, and shut peripheral thoughts out of my field of attention. Yet I continued to feel as though I was mentally just slightly behind the curve, especially when in the company of drinkers of coffee and tea, which, of course, was all the time and everywhere.

Here’s what I was missing: I missed the way caffeine and its rituals used to order my day, especially in the morning. Herbal teas – which are barely, if at all, psychoactive – lack the power of coffee and tea to organize the day into a rhythm of energetic peaks and valleys, as the mental tide of caffeine ebbs and flows. The morning surge is a blessing, obviously, but there is also something comforting in the ebb tide of afternoon, which a cup of tea can gently reverse.

At some point I began to wonder if perhaps it was all in my head, this sense that I had lost a mental step since getting off coffee and tea. So I decided to look at the science, to learn what, if any, cognitive enhancement can actually be attributed to caffeine. I found numerous studies conducted over the years reporting that caffeine improves performance on a range of cognitive measures – of memory, focus, alertness, vigilance, attention and learning.

An experiment done in the 1930s found that chess players on caffeine performed significantly better than players who abstained. In another study, caffeine users completed a variety of mental tasks more quickly, though they made more errors; as one paper put it in its title, people on caffeine are “faster, but not smarter”. In a 2014 experiment, subjects given caffeine immediately after learning new material remembered it better than subjects who received a placebo. Tests of psychomotor abilities also suggest that caffeine gives us an edge: in simulated driving exercises, caffeine improves performance, especially when the subject is tired. It also enhances physical performance on such metrics as time trials, muscle strength and endurance.

True, there is reason to take these findings with a pinch of salt, if only because this kind of research is difficult to do well. The problem is finding a good control group in a society in which virtually everyone is addicted to caffeine. But the consensus seems to be that caffeine does improve mental (and physical) performance to some degree.

Whether caffeine also enhances creativity is a different question, however, and there’s some reason to doubt that it does. Caffeine improves our focus and ability to concentrate, which surely enhances linear and abstract thinking, but creativity works very differently. It may depend on the loss of a certain kind of focus, and the freedom to let the mind off the leash of linear thought.

Cognitive psychologists sometimes talk in terms of two distinct types of consciousness: spotlight consciousness, which illuminates a single focal point of attention, making it very good for reasoning, and lantern consciousness, in which attention is less focused yet illuminates a broader field of attention. Young children tend to exhibit lantern consciousness; so do many people on psychedelics.

This more diffuse form of attention lends itself to mind wandering, free association, and the making of novel connections – all of which can nourish creativity. By comparison, caffeine’s big contribution to human progress has been to intensify spotlight consciousness – the focused, linear, abstract and efficient cognitive processing more closely associated with mental work than play. This, more than anything else, is what made caffeine the perfect drug not only for the age of reason and the Enlightenment, but for the rise of capitalism, too.

The power of caffeine to keep us awake and alert, to stem the natural tide of exhaustion, freed us from the circadian rhythms of our biology and so, along with the advent of artificial light, opened the frontier of night to the possibilities of work.

What coffee did for clerks and intellectuals, tea would soon do for the English working class. Indeed, it was tea from the East Indies – heavily sweetened with sugar from the West Indies – that fuelled the Industrial Revolution. We think of England as a tea culture, but coffee, initially the cheaper beverage by far, dominated at first.

Soon after the British East India Company began trading with China, cheap tea flooded England. A beverage that only the well-to-do could afford to drink in 1700 was by 1800 consumed by virtually everyone, from the society matron to the factory worker.

To supply this demand required an imperialist enterprise of enormous scale and brutality, especially after the British decided it would be more profitable to turn India, its colony, into a tea producer, than to buy tea from the Chinese. This required first stealing the secrets of tea production from the Chinese (a mission accomplished by the renowned Scots botanist and plant explorer Robert Fortune, disguised as a mandarin); seizing land from peasant farmers in Assam (where tea grew wild), and then forcing the farmers into servitude, picking tea leaves from dawn to dusk.

The introduction of tea to the west was all about exploitation – the extraction of surplus value from labor, not only in its production in India, but in its consumption by the British as well. Tea allowed the British working class to endure long shifts, brutal working conditions and more or less constant hunger; the caffeine helped quiet the hunger pangs, and the sugar in it became a crucial source of calories. (From a strictly nutritional standpoint, workers would have been better off sticking with beer.) The caffeine in tea helped create a new kind of worker, one better adapted to the rule of the machine. It is difficult to imagine an Industrial Revolution without it.


So how exactly does coffee, and caffeine more generally, make us more energetic, efficient and faster? How could this little molecule possibly supply the human body energy without calories? Could caffeine be the proverbial free lunch, or do we pay a price for the mental and physical energy – the alertness, focus and stamina – that caffeine gives us?

Alas, there is no free lunch. It turns out that caffeine only appears to give us energy. Caffeine works by blocking the action of adenosine, a molecule that gradually accumulates in the brain over the course of the day, preparing the body to rest. Caffeine molecules interfere with this process, keeping adenosine from doing its job – and keeping us feeling alert. But adenosine levels continue to rise, so that when the caffeine is eventually metabolized, the adenosine floods the body’s receptors and tiredness returns. So the energy that caffeine gives us is borrowed, in effect, and eventually the debt must be paid back.

For as long as people have been drinking coffee and tea, medical authorities have warned about the dangers of caffeine. But until now, caffeine has been cleared of the most serious charges against it. The current scientific consensus is more than reassuring – in fact, the research suggests that coffee and tea, far from being deleterious to our health, may offer some important benefits, as long as they aren’t consumed to excess.

Regular coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of several cancers (including breast, prostate, colorectal and endometrial), cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and possibly depression and suicide. (Though high doses can produce nervousness and anxiety, and rates of suicide climb among those who drink eight or more cups a day.)

My review of the medical literature on coffee and tea made me wonder if my abstention might be compromising not only my mental function but my physical health, as well. However, that was before I spoke to Matt Walker.

An English neuroscientist on the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, Walker, author of Why We Sleep, is single-minded in his mission: to alert the world to an invisible public-health crisis, which is that we are not getting nearly enough sleep, the sleep we are getting is of poor quality, and a principal culprit in this crime against body and mind is caffeine. Caffeine itself might not be bad for you, but the sleep it’s stealing from you may have a price.

According to Walker, research suggests that insufficient sleep may be a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, arteriosclerosis, stroke, heart failure, depression, anxiety, suicide and obesity. “The shorter you sleep,” he bluntly concludes, “the shorter your lifespan.”

Walker grew up in England drinking copious amounts of black tea, morning, noon and night. He no longer consumes caffeine, save for the small amounts in his occasional cup of decaf. In fact, none of the sleep researchers or experts on circadian rhythms I interviewed for this story use caffeine.

Walker explained that, for most people, the “quarter life” of caffeine is usually about 12 hours, meaning that 25% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee consumed at noon is still circulating in your brain when you go to bed at midnight. That could well be enough to completely wreck your deep sleep.

I thought of myself as a pretty good sleeper before I met Walker. At lunch he probed me about my sleep habits. I told him I usually get a solid seven hours, fall asleep easily, dream most nights. “How many times a night do you wake up?” he asked. I’m up three or four times a night (usually to pee), but I almost always fall right back to sleep.

He nodded gravely. “That’s really not good, all those interruptions. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity.” The interruptions were undermining the amount of “deep” or “slow wave” sleep I was getting, something above and beyond the REM sleep I had always thought was the measure of a good night’s rest. But it seems that deep sleep is just as important to our health, and the amount we get tends to decline with age.

Caffeine is not the sole cause of our sleep crisis; screens, alcohol (which is as hard on REM sleep as caffeine is on deep sleep), pharmaceuticals, work schedules, noise and light pollution, and anxiety can all play a role in undermining both the duration and quality of our sleep. But here’s what’s uniquely insidious about caffeine: the drug is not only a leading cause of our sleep deprivation; it is also the principal tool we rely on to remedy the problem. Most of the caffeine consumed today is being used to compensate for the lousy sleep that caffeine causes – which means that caffeine is helping to hide from our awareness the very problem that caffeine creates.


The time came to wrap up my experiment in caffeine deprivation. I was eager to see what a body that had been innocent of caffeine for three months would experience when subjected to a couple of shots of espresso. I had thought long and hard about what kind of coffee I would get, and where. I opted for a “special”, my local coffee shop’s term for a double-​shot espresso made with less steamed milk than a typical cappuccino; it’s more commonly known as a flat white.

My special was unbelievably good, a ringing reminder of what a poor counterfeit decaf is; here were whole dimensions and depths of flavour that I had completely forgotten about. Everything in my visual field seemed pleasantly italicised, filmic, and I wondered if all these people with their cardboard-sleeve-swaddled cups had any idea what a powerful drug they were sipping. But how could they?

They had long ago become habituated to caffeine, and were now using it for another purpose entirely. Baseline maintenance, that is, plus a welcome little lift. I felt lucky that this more powerful experience was available to me. This – along with the stellar sleeps – was the wonderful dividend of my investment in abstention.

And yet in a few days’ time I would be them, caffeine-tolerant and addicted all over again. I wondered: was there any way to preserve the power of this drug? Could I devise a new relationship with caffeine? Maybe treat it more like a psychedelic – say, something to be taken only on occasion, and with a greater degree of ceremony and intention. Maybe just drink coffee on Saturdays? Just the one.

When I got home I tackled my to-do list with unaccustomed fervour, harnessing the surge of energy – of focus! – coursing through me, and put it to good use. I compulsively cleared and decluttered – on the computer, in my closet, in the garden and the shed. I raked, I weeded, I put things in order, as if I were possessed. Whatever I focused on, I focused on zealously and single-mindedly.

Around noon, my compulsiveness began to subside, and I felt ready for a change of scene. I had yanked a few plants out of the vegetable garden that were not pulling their weight, and decided to go to the garden centre to buy some replacements. It was during the drive that I realised the true reason I was heading to this particular garden centre: it had this Airstream trailer parked out front that served really good espresso.

This article was amended on 8 July 2021 to include mention of the Turkish influence on early European coffeehouses.

This is an edited extract from This Is Your Mind on Plants: Opium-Caffeine-Mescaline by Michael Pollan, published by Allen Lane on 8 July and available at guardianbookshop.co.uk

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Source: The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine? | Coffee | The Guardian

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Critics:

Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. There are several known mechanisms of action to explain the effects of caffeine. The most prominent is that it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptors and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine. Caffeine also stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system.

Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid, and is chemically related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It is found in the seeds, fruits, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to Africa, East Asia and South America, and helps to protect them against herbivores and from competition by preventing the germination of nearby seeds, as well as encouraging consumption by select animals such as honey bees. The best-known source of caffeine is the coffee bean, the seed of the Coffea plant.

Caffeine is used in:

  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants for both prevention and treatment. It may improve weight gain during therapy and reduce the incidence of cerebral palsy as well as reduce language and cognitive delay. On the other hand, subtle long-term side effects are possible.
  • Apnea of prematurity as a primary treatment, but not prevention.
  • Orthostatic hypotension treatment.
  • Some people use caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee or tea to try to treat their asthma. Evidence to support this practice, however, is poor. It appears that caffeine in low doses improves airway function in people with asthma, increasing forced expiratory volume (FEV1) by 5% to 18%, with this effect lasting for up to four hours.
  • The addition of caffeine (100–130 mg) to commonly prescribed pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen modestly improves the proportion of people who achieve pain relief

A Beverage Behemoth Awakens As Coke Adds Energy Drinks To Its Portfolio

Image result for beverage Behemoth

It’s still the real thing. But Coca-Cola hasn’t been shy about change over the decades. The company that launched in 1886 has gone through dozens of taglines to convey its brand, from “Drink Coca-Cola” to “Life Tastes Good,” “Taste the Feeling” and many more. Now it’s going beyond spin and slogans to stay relevant with today’s customers, launching a new portfolio of products—possibly its biggest ever —led by energy drinks.

The company made headlines at the National Association of Convenience Stores Expo in Atlanta in October when it said it is debuting energy drinks in the United States next January. But that’s only part of the story.

Coca-Cola’s also launching a baker’s dozen of other drinks and many more flavors, a major change for a company that until not long ago focused on classics and continuity. At a time when soda sales overall are flat (or declining), Coke’s looking for growth in new areas.

The company, in addition to being a giant in the carbonated beverage category, lately has been trying to enter and dominate other nonalcoholic beverage categories, such as coffee and energy drinks. Coke’s seeking to harness its brands, resources, distribution and marketing. It’s focusing on growing and expanding into new sectors, which could lead to a bigger company and, if things work out, other growing brands.

The company, based in Atlanta where the show took place, doesn’t only want to take over shelf space. It wants to eliminate the competition. The goal is to become a leader in each of the categories. The mission is to improve profitability for shareholders, grow market share, enter new markets, leverage brands and ride the tides of taste, while growing top and bottom line. Coke’s second-quarter revenues and margins rose—a double punch. At least for now, Coca-Cola is growing, even as soda is under fire.

The behemoth awakens? With a 60% market share in nonalcoholic beverages, it’s about time that Coca-Cola jumped on board with the trends. There is, nevertheless, room for growth. Simply deciding to debut Coca-Cola Energy in the U.S. already took a bite out of Monster’s stock. Expect the same with Monster’s sales. Coke is also making waves from coffee to vitamin water to energy drinks to fruit juices, smoothies and on. It’s going after nearly anything without alcohol, adding energy to the business—and not just as a drink.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey talks about a “strategy to transform as a total beverage company” in the nonalcoholic beverage space. He isn’t kidding. The company already has more than 500 brands (from Minute Maid to Powerade and beyond) in more than 200 countries and territories. What’s another dozen more? These are often in new categories.

When Coca-Cola paid $5.1 billion to buy Costa Coffee, it was betting big. Coke launched Costa Coffee ready-to-drink chilled product in Great Britain. The company wants to own the morning, building on other big brands with Dunkin’ Cold Brew Coffee. Expect Coca-Cola to try to try to stir up coffee sales with more debuts. You couldn’t be a “total beverage” company without tea. Coke’s expanding Peace Tea with three new flavors next March.

It’s rolling out Coca-Cola Cherry Vanilla and Cherry Vanilla Zero after debuting Coke Orange Vanilla this year as the first new flavor added to the Coca-Cola brand in over a decade. The company this year also rolled out Sprite Lymonade. It’s trying to cash in on the holidays with Coca-Cola Cinnamon and Sprite Winter Spiced Cranberry.

Coke even filed a number of patents in 2019 to expand its range, including a way to buy food and beverages from vending machines with cell phones. Add to that methods to produce potable water from otherwise undrinkable sources. A classic company is innovating.

It’s always nice to be number one. When Coke puts its marketing and distribution muscle behind products, magic can happen. The behemoth has woken. Let’s see where it goes now that it’s awake.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am the national leader of Marcum’s Food and Beverage Services group. I’ve been an entrepreneurial leader in accounting for over 40 years, and am a frequent lecturer and published author on various financial and business topics. My expert advice has appeared in both national and local publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Long Island and New Jersey Business News, Supermarket News, and Food Dive. I also founded a series of best practice forums for food and beverage companies, which attract nearly 500 senior executives annually, as well as an annual food and beverage survey.

Source: A Beverage Behemoth Awakens As Coke Adds Energy Drinks To Its Portfolio

Before We Talk About Green Energy, Let’s Talk About Batteries

A new report from the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Energy seeks to assess the signs of whether there will be a gradual or a rapid “energy transition.”  In other words, will global economies switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies slowly or all at once?

The report takes for granted that the world will transition to using renewable energies—mainly solar and wind—by the middle of this century. However, the report omits a crucial piece of technological development from its forecast: batteries.

The few times batteries are mentioned, they are generally referred to as “storage,” because batteries are essentially just storage containers for electricity or power. The report draws conclusion like, “Even as penetration [of renewable power] rises, technologies such as storage and demand response are likely to make higher levels of penetration cheaper.”

This is serious flaw with the conclusions and forecasts because we do not yet have that technology to make better and cheaper batteries, and we don’t know when or if we will.

Solar and wind offer the promise of a plentiful, clean power. Yet, we still need to improve the efficiency of their power production, and we need to find a way to effectively store the power they produce. The wind does not always blow, and the sun does not always shine.

If and when we find the ability to store the excess power created by wind and solar (and hydro and nuclear and anything else), we will be well on our way to much cleaner energy production. Right now our batteries cannot store that kind of power over the long term, regularly recharge, and last for years.

Someday, someone will invent the new generation of batteries that will revolutionize energy use. When they do, the transition to renewable energy will surely be rapid. This breakthrough could be as close as a few years away. Or perhaps it won’t come for decades.

However, making assumptions about the speed at which global economies can transition away from fossil fuels without a revolution in battery technology is just wishful thinking. Investment and innovation in battery and energy storage technology is still needed before we can transition away from fossil fuels.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m an energy historian writing about how governments and energy businesses interact globally. My work looks at how policy, wars, diplomacy, the stock market, oil pricing, and innovation impact the future of energy. I am the president of Transversal Consulting, a firm that provides consulting on energy and geopolitics to a range of industries. I am also a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. My book, Saudi, Inc., (Pegasus Books, 2018) covers the history and policy of Aramco and Saudi Arabia.

Source: Before We Talk About Green Energy, Let’s Talk About Batteries

How will green energy change our future? What will our future look like with green energy? The growth of green energy goes together with change. Our future will not only include green energy, but our future will also be shaped by it. What will the future sustainable world look like? That is the big question, now that the global transition towards sustainable energy is gaining momentum. For the growth of sustainable energy involves a lot more changes than just the color of the power supplied to our homes. How will we build, how will our mobility be impacted, and will energy, one day, be free? Just like the Internet turned out to have an unforeseen influence on all kinds of industries, from music to taxi businesses, the transition towards sustainable energy will also rise beyond the energy sector. And with a much wider impact than is now assumed. But we know surprisingly little about what that world will look like, and how the people in it will live, work and move around. Expectations are that, by the 2050s, two-thirds of the electricity generated globally will be sustainable. The Netherlands is ambitious too. But what kind of world are we heading for, really, with all these sustainable measures? In partial areas, the future is clear: a massive stop to the use of gas, lots of windmills and solar panels, and perhaps a self-driving car outside. But, for now, there is no wider vision of what the sustainable new world will look like. What will the world be like once energy has become practically free? What will the impact of the transition towards sustainable energy be on the balance of power in the world? A journey along places where the sustainable future is already (nearly) visible. In China, for example, old collapsed coal mines are given a new destination as solar parks. In Denmark, the power plants of the future also serve as skiing slopes. And in Malmö, Sweden, new leases are signed with green fingers. Original title: Voorbij de groene horizon With: Bjarke Ingels (architect, BIG Copenhagen), Peggy Liu (green pioneer JUCCCE Shanghai) and Varun Sivaram (author ‘Taming the Sun’ and expert clean energy technology Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC). Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2018. © VPRO Backlight October 2018 On VPRO broadcast you will find nonfiction videos with English subtitles, French subtitles and Spanish subtitles, such as documentaries, short interviews and documentary series. VPRO Documentary publishes one new subtitled documentary about current affairs, finance, sustainability, climate change or politics every week. We research subjects like politics, world economy, society and science with experts and try to grasp the essence of prominent trends and developments. Subscribe to our channel for great, subtitled, recent documentaries. Visit additional youtube channels bij VPRO broadcast: VPRO Broadcast, all international VPRO programs: https://www.youtube.com/VPRObroadcast VPRO DOK, German only documentaries: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBi0… VPRO Metropolis, remarkable stories from all over the world: https://www.youtube.com/user/VPROmetr… VPRO World Stories, the travel series of VPRO: https://www.youtube.com/VPROworldstories VPRO Extra, additional footage and one off’s: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTLr… http://www.VPRObroadcast.com Credits: Director: Martijn Kieft Research:William de Bruijn Camera: Jacko van´t Hof, Hans Bouma, Remco Bikkers Sound: Cloud Wang, Mark Witte, Dennis Kersten Fixer China: Liyan Ma Edit: Michiel Hazebroek, Jeroen van den Berk Online Editor: Sanne Stevens Production: Jeroen Beumer Commissioning Editors: Marije Meerman, Doke Romeijn English, French and Spanish subtitles: Ericsson. French and Spanish subtitles are co-funded by European Union.

Death by Diet Soda Artificially Sweetened Beverages To Premature Death

There was a collective gasp among Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi drinkers this week after media reports highlighted a new study that found prodigious consumers of artificially sweetened drinks were 26 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who rarely drank sugar-free beverages.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 450,000 Europeans over 16 years and tracked mortality among soft-drink consumers of all persuasions — both those with a fondness for sugary beverages and those who favored sugar-free drinks.

Given the well-documented health effects of consuming too much sugar, it was little surprise the authors found that people who drank two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened beverages a day were eight percent more likely to die young compared to those who consumed less than one glass a month.

But what grabbed headlines, and prompted widespread angst, was the suggestion that drinking Diet Coke could be even more deadly than drinking Coca-Cola Classic.

“Putting our results in context with other published studies, it would probably be prudent to limit consumption of all soft drinks and replace them with healthier alternatives like water,” said Amy Mullee, a nutritionist at University College Dublin and one of 50 researchers who worked on the study, one of the largest of its kind to date.

The study is not a one-off. Over the past year, other research in the United States has found a correlation between artificially sweetened beverages and premature death.

The problem, experts say, is that these and other studies have been unable to resolve a key question: Does consuming drinks sweetened with aspartame or saccharin harm your health? Or could it be that people who drink lots of Diet Snapple or Sprite Zero lead a more unhealthy lifestyle to begin with?

A number of nutritionists, epidemiologists and behavioral scientists think the latter may be true. (It’s a theory that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has guiltily ordered a Diet Coke to accompany their Double Whopper with cheese.)

“It could be that diet soda drinkers eat a lot of bacon or perhaps it’s because there are people who rationalize their unhealthy lifestyle by saying, ‘Now that I’ve had a diet soda, I can have those French fries,’” said Vasanti S. Malik, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of a study in April that found that the link between artificial sweeteners and increased mortality in women was largely inconclusive. “This is a huge study, with a half million people in 10 countries, but I don’t think it adds to what we already know.”

The authors of the JAMA paper tried to account for these risk factors by removing study participants who were smokers or obese, and they tried to improve its accuracy through statistical modeling.

But Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said these so-called observational studies cannot really determine cause and effect. “Maybe artificial sweeteners aren’t increasing mortality,” he said. “Maybe it’s just that people with an increased risk of mortality, like those with overweight or obesity, are choosing to drink diet soda but, in the end, this doesn’t solve their weight problem and they die prematurely.”

Still, scientists say the alternative to observational studies — a clinical trial that randomly assigns participants to a sugary drinks group or a diet soda group — isn’t feasible.

“Clinical trials are considered the gold standard in science, but imagine asking thousands of people to stick to such a regimen for decades,” said Dr. Malik of Harvard. “Many people would drop out, and it would also be prohibitively expensive.”

Concerns about artificial sweeteners have been around since the 1970s, when studies found that large quantities of saccharin caused cancer in lab rats. The Food and Drug Administration issued a temporary ban on the sweetener, and Congress ordered up additional studies and a warning label, but subsequent research found the chemical to be safe for human consumption. More recently-created chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have also been extensively studied, with little evidence that they negatively impact human health, according to the F.D.A.

Some studies have even found a correlation between artificial sweeteners and weight loss, but others have suggested they may increase cravings for sugary foods.

“There’s no evidence they are harmful to people with a healthy diet who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Barry M. Popkin, a nutritionist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He and others remain concerned that giving diet beverages to young children might encourage a sweet tooth.

Still, many scientists say more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners. Although Dr. Mullee, one of the authors of the study, cautioned against drawing stark conclusions from their data, she said the deleterious effects of artificial sweeteners can’t be ruled out, noting studies that suggest a possible link between aspartame and elevated levels of blood glucose and insulin in humans. “Right now the biological mechanisms are unclear but we’re hoping our research will spark further exploration,” she said.

For consumers, the mixed messaging can be confusing. Dr. Jim Krieger, the founding executive director of Healthy Food America, an advocacy group that presses municipalities to enact soda taxes and increase consumer access to fruits and vegetables, said the new study and others like it raise more questions than they answer.

“Gosh, at this point, you probably want to go with water, tea or unsweetened coffee and not take a chance on beverages we don’t know much about,” he said. “Certainly, you don’t want to drink sugary beverages because we know that these aren’t good for you.”

By

Andrew Jacobs is a reporter with the Health and Science Desk, based in New York. He previously reported from Beijing and Brazil and had stints as a Metro reporter, Styles writer and National correspondent, covering the American South.

Source: Death by Diet Soda? – The New York Times

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The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2019 — VinePair

Beer lovers with a penchant for travel already know about Belgium, both Portlands (Oregon and Maine), and Colorado. Many have Munich, and its famed Oktoberfest, on their bucket lists. But with 7,000 breweries and counting in the U.S., and more breweries in Europe and Asia increasingly inspired to supplement their own traditions with American craft…

via The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2019 — VinePair

The Highs & Lows of Testosterone – Randi Hutter Epstein

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Getting a high testosterone reading offers bragging rights for some men of a certain age and may explain in part the lure of testosterone supplements. But once you are within a normal range, does your level of testosterone, the male hormone touted to build energy, libido and confidence, really tell you that much? Probably not, experts say. Normal testosterone levels in men range from about 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter of blood. Going from one number within the normal zone to another one may not pack much of a punch.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/well/live/testosterone-supplements-low-t-treatment-libido.html

 

 

 

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