In the Netflix series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," Jerry Seinfeld drives around with colleagues like Ricky Gervais (in a 1967 Austin-Healey 3000), Kristen Wiig (a 1964 Volvo) and Aziz Ansari (a souped-up Prevost tour bus) and stops for some joe with jokes.
But coffee is no joke. This beloved pick-me-up (Americans drink 400 million cups a day!) has many benefits. The newest seems to be in the battle of the bulge. Researchers recently published a study in Scientific Reports that looked at coffee's effect on cells in a dish and on humans. They found that some component(s) of caffeinated coffee help turn energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat. That leads to improved blood sugar control, lower levels of lousy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and burning of extra calories to promote weight loss.
Add that to the other recognized benefits of coffee and you've got a cuppa goodness -- if you don't load it up with sugar-added flavorings and full-fat dairy.
Three to four cups of black coffee (or with soy or almond milk) a day has been found to up longevity, and some studies show that it can reduce the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, uterine and liver cancer, cirrhosis and gout.
For you decaf or half-caf folks (8 ounces of decaffeinated coffee can contain 2-15 milligrams of caffeine; regular coffee has 80-100 milligrams) there are still recognized benefits to your heart, brain and liver from two to four cups daily. Enjoy!
Loneliness may be your undiagnosed cause of poor health
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," a novel by Carson McCullers, is about an isolated deaf man who strives to build friendships with four acquaintances. Each of the book's main characters is equally lonely for different reasons: physical and intellectual deficits, political beliefs, lack of education or loss of a loved one.
Written nearly 80 years ago, the novel still resonates today. According to a survey, one in five Americans say they always or often feel lonely or socially isolated -- and that takes a toll on personal health.
Many studies link chronic loneliness to migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes, pain, gastrointestinal problems, chronic inflammation and stress, insomnia, and poor or disordered eating habits. In fact, people who are chronically lonely are 50% more likely to die prematurely than folks who feel supported by friends, family and community. No wonder research suggests loneliness can be as harmful to a person as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Making connections: If you often feel lonely or isolated, it's smart to seek professional help to identify the causes and explore solutions. Social anxiety? Physical disability? Loss of resources? Death of a partner or companion? This may sound basic, but go outside and move around! Sunshine, physical activity and being around people (even strangers) can have restorative benefits. Volunteer to help others, or join a cooking, pottery or yoga class. Finally, use the internet to find organized groups to join (in person and online) that align with your interests. You'll be surprised by how many people are looking for exactly the same thing!
Kratom is not a solution to opioid addiction
Americans have a long history of falling for elixirs that claim to be benign but in fact are packed with addictive substances. In the 1830s, for example, McMunn's Elixir of Opium was touted for "nervous irritability," as well as rabies and tetanus, and Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, a morphine and alcohol concoction, was touted for fussy kids.
Today we have kratom, a plant with two active compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, that affect the same opioid brain receptors as morphine and cause sedation, pleasure and decreased pain when taken in large enough doses. Hence, it's potentially addictive.
The Food and Drug Administration says it's illegal to sell as a medical remedy for pain, cancer or whatever else occurs to the vendor. They also caution that many of the kratom-associated deaths (44 to date) seem to happen when it's combined with illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin and over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup, or when it is contaminated with undeclared (and lethal) ingredients. Plus, the heavy metals lead and nickel have been found in kratom, and there was a 2018 alert for a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections from contaminated kratom products.
So if you're trying to manage chronic pain, see a pain management specialist, take up a stress management technique such as deep breathing or guided imagery, and explore physical therapy and an anti-inflammatory diet. If you think this weed will whack some other disorder you have, think again. It can dull you to your symptoms, and then you'll end up with a more advanced, and untreated, medical problem.
Mix it up -- morning and evening exercise have different benefits
When the Triple A Pawtucket Red Socks and Rochester Red Wings took the field at 8:25 p.m. on April 18, 1981, they had no idea that they'd still be trying to break a 2-2 tie at 4:07 the next morning, after 32 innings. The game was suspended (finally) at that point and concluded June 23, when a run was scored by Pawtucket in the 33rd inning -- the most innings ever in a professional game. The game officially lasted eight hours and 25 minutes.
We're betting the experience that future MLB stars Wade Boggs (Pawtucket) and Cal Ripken Jr. (Rochester) had on that long night reflects the recent findings of Danish researchers. Working in the lab, they discovered that early-in-the-day exercise increases the ability of muscle cells to metabolize sugar and fat. That may help regulate glucose and power your body for early hour exertions. Plus, an early workout may help you exercise more energetically.
Evening exercise has benefits, too. The researchers found that it revs up your metabolism for a longer period of time than exercising earlier in the day, increasing energy expenditure in the hours after exercise. That may be a boon for weight control. Plus, evening workouts are also a great way to cope with a stressful day and may improve sleep.
The smart move might be to mix up your workout schedule to include both early and late bouts. Just don't try to get both types of workouts into one day. Leave that to Boggs and Ripken Jr.
The best seat may not be in the house
In 1940, Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly sat atop a 225-foot flagpole in Atlantic City for 49 days and one hour. Now that took super-stamina and a skinny backside. But, according to a new study, sitting in front of the TV doesn't demand any physical prowess -- and it's far worse for you than sitting at work.
Columbia University Medical School researchers found that participants who watched TV for four or more hours a day had a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular events and death over the course of the eight and half year study than those who tuned in less than two hours daily. In contrast, those who sat the most at work had the same health risks as those who sat the least.
Why is sitting at work for six to eight hours less harmful than four hours a day of TV watching? Well, we're here to unravel that mystery.
When you watch TV, you don't move much, except to reach for a bowl of chips or ice cream. You may not even talk. If you weigh 150 pounds, you're burning 68 calories per hour. But at work, you'll burn 102 calories an hour while talking and 170 calories an hour doing moderate work.
So, to increase your calorie burn while watching TV, try chatting while riding a stationary bike and ...
• Sit up straight. Good posture demands engaged muscles.
• Laugh. Seems that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter can burn 10-40 more calories.
• Drink water. One study found that drinking 16 ounces increases your metabolic rate by 30%, peaking at around 30 minutes after drinking.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.