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The daily grab bag #2 | Ana Marie Cox September 30, 2011

Petulant Floridians join irritated New Hampshire residents in thinking Michele Bachmann should pay more attention to them, because she needs them to win the nomination. They are totally going to not sit next to her at lunch.

• Congressional members can’t stop poking each other.

Here is a picture of a Chia Pet in the likeness of Rick Perry.

Rick Santorum recently compared Fox News’ obsessive Perry coverage to “a dog following the squirrel” (the guy has a dog thing), leaving out the lucrative role he’s played as a part of Fox’s kennel.

Dunkin Donuts survey suggests correlation between coffee consumption and sitting in front of a computer monitor. I assume the scientists on this list are working on an IV.

• “Nothing good comes from hitting ‘Reply All'”, and other words of wisdom.

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Health Buzz: Does Coffee Cut Depression Risk in Women? September 28, 2011

Coffee May Thwart Depression, New Study Says

Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression over their lifetime. The good news: a few daily cups of Joe may lower women’s depression risk, a new study suggests. Researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health analyzed surveys on the caffeine consumption of more than 50,000 U.S. women, who were tracked for more than a decade. Women who had two or three cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to develop depression over 10 years than those who had one cup or no coffee each week, the team found. Drinking four or more cups was associated with a 20 percent lower depression risk. But don’t turn on the coffee maker just yet. The findings, published Sept. 26 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, don’t prove that coffee prevents depression. The non-coffee drinkers, for example, could have had other risk factors for depression that weren’t accounted for (i.e., a death in the family). Also, the women in the study were nurses, making it difficult to generalize findings to the broader public, said Emma Robertson-Blackmore, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in an interview with My Health News Daily.

Is Coffee Bad for You? Actually, Drinking Coffee May Be Good for You

Coffee may have other benefits, too, U.S. News reported in 2009. It’s believed to improve mood, alertness, and energy. But is coffee bad for you? Despite past concerns about coffee, tea, and other sources of caffeine being detrimental to health, recent research suggests that regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer—and regular coffee drinkers might even live longer. “For most people [who] choose to drink coffee, the benefits probably outweigh the risks,” says Donald Hensrud, chair of the division of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“In the past, a lot of people have tried to improve their health by cutting down on coffee,” says Rob M. van Dam, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. But that’s probably an unnecessary sacrifice. Although experts once thought caffeine was harmful, recent “studies have been largely reassuring,” he says. In the past, it has been hard to differentiate the health effects of coffee versus those tied to smoking cigarettes, since heavy coffee drinkers are more likely to smoke than other people. [Read more: Is Coffee Bad for You? Actually, Drinking Coffee May Be Good for You.]

How Coffee Can Energize Your Workout

Gym bag, check. Car keys, check. Coffee downed, check. Yes, a caffeine kick could be a valuable addition to your pre-exercise routine, delaying muscle fatigue and keeping you focused and energetic. You don’t want to overdo it, though. Sleep problems, headaches, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, or maybe even a heart attack can result. Here’s how to work caffeine into your workouts, U.S. News reported in 2010.

1. Match the amount to your body. “The larger you are, the more metabolically active tissue you have,” says Nicholas Gant, director of the Exercise Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “If you’re a small person, your tissues don’t use up as much, therefore you need a lesser dose.” A very rough recommendation is 0.5 to 1.4 milligrams of caffeine per pound of body weight. Coffee averages about 20 mg. per ounce, or 160 mg. per 8-ounce cup. That’s about the limit for a 130-pound woman, though a 200-pound man could probably down a couple of cups. Go above 4 mg. of caffeine per pound and your workout could be ruined by digestive distress, the jitters, and other unpleasant side effects/ [Read more: How Coffee Can Energize Your Workout.]

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Coffee may help prevent depression in women September 27, 2011

Drinking several cups of coffee a day may help to prevent depression in women, new research suggests.

It found that four or more cups of caffeinated coffee slashed the risk of clinical depression by 20% when compared with drinking one or fewer cups per week.

The research, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, questioned 50,739 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, a major US investigation exploring health and lifestyle.

The study tracked the health of the women from 1980 to 2004 using detailed questionnaires to record their coffee consumption. Just over 2,600 of the women developed depression over this time period. Analysis showed that more of these women drank little or no coffee rather than being frequent coffee drinkers.

It is not clear why coffee might have this beneficial effect, but the authors believe that caffeine in coffee may alter the brain’s chemistry. Researchers found no similar association with decaffeinated coffee or other sources of caffeine, including soft drinks and tea.

Caffeine is the world’s most widely used stimulant of the central nervous system with approximately 80% consumed in the form of coffee. However, studies analysing the relationship between coffee or caffeine consumption and depression risk are few and far between.

The authors said further study was necessary: “In this large longitudinal study, we found that depression risk decreases with increasing caffeinated coffee consumption. Further investigations are needed to confirm this finding and to determine whether usual caffeinated coffee consumption can contribute to depression prevention.”

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