Caffeine industry efforts mirror Big Tobacco's

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One of the things I was somewhat surprised to learn when working to get the ban on smoking alluded to in last week's article was that the tobacco industry had managed to manipulate the dissemination of scientific knowledge and to influence the course of scientific research on tobacco, thus confusing the public about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Surprise. It turns out that according to a 1994 editorial in the journal Addiction, the caffeine industry has done the same thing. The editorial goes on to point out that the allocation of funds by the caffeine industry for research for results that are essentially health neutral information (that is that caffeine is neither good nor bad) represents a wise investment in public relations at that same time that it promotes confusion about potential hazards of caffeine.

According to the editorial the industry has set up the International Life Sciences Institute. Although the name gives the impression of a society of disinterested researchers ILSI actually has been set up to further the commercial aims of the industry.

Furthermore according to the editorial ILSI arranged to have a book published that makes a significant contribution to the interests of the caffeine producers. The editorial adds that this subtle and pernicious manipulation of information is not a rare thing.

For more than 10 years ILSI has scheduled "scientific" meetings in various parts of the world. They invited selected scientists and the proceedings have generally portrayed caffeine as something benign and enjoyable. The findings are published and are disseminated to the public via information "updates" to members of the industry and to media worldwide who, it is pointed out, get income from advertising caffeine products. Space constraints prevent giving more information from the editorial but I wonder if folks might consider these industry activities as an effort to cook the books.

It appears to me that the industry would have no interest in publishing the adverse findings of studies. It also seems to me that given these activities consumers might wonder if the industry has played a role in financing some of the "good studies.."

In the Wall Street Journal of Dec.29, 2009, there was an article with the title "Good News in the Daily Grind" The author pointed out that recent headlines could make one think coffee might be the latest health-food craze right up there with whole wheat bread and broccoli. Later the article mentions Peter Martin, a professor at Vanderbilt University who is also the director of the school's Institute for Coffee Studies founded in 1999 with money from coffee producing countries. Does that suggest a potential conflict of interest? Does it also make one wonder how long the funding would last if the Coffee Institute started letting the public know of the findings which are being presented in this article.

One news item presented in the 2009 Wall Street Journal article was that a study had been done showing that men who had drunk at least six cups of coffee a day had a 60 percent less chance of developing advanced prostate cancer. Since I rarely if ever read the Wall Street Journal I am wondering if they reported the 2010 study that was in the medical journal BJU International that showed that caffeine neither increased nor decreased the incidence of prostate cancer.

In the course of my research I contacted four alcohol rehab centers to see if they allowed their patients to have coffee. Three out of four did not including the well known Betty Ford rehab center in southern California and the Lakeside Milam Recovery Center in Seattle-the largest private addiction center on the West coast. In the 1960s and '70s I was involved in what was known as the Five Day Plan to Stop Smoking. This included two presentations in Iran and one in Kuwait. The success rate was better when people would eliminate coffee from their diet. For many people a cup of coffee and a cigarette go together like peaches and cream.

Next week, we'll return to further adverse findings reported in animal and human studies.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent 4 years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 21/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The information contained in this short series of articles is taken from a file 23/4 inches thick. Time and space prevented giving more of this information. However it all significantly supports what is written here.

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