This week a report on a study by Australia’s La Trobe University stated that they found that coffee and stress lead people to hallucinate. It’s not that they saw dancing pink elephants on the office water cooler, but it was suggested stressed office workers who drink more than five cups of coffee, or 200 mg, might imagine things that aren’t there. The professor conducting the study went so far as to project that five cups of coffee on a stressful day could cause a person to experience delusions of persecution. The study merely grouped 92 people into categories regarding stress levels and amount of coffee consumed daily. Then they played the White Christmas song before playing white noise. (go to http://www.simplynoise.com/ to experience it.) They also told the people that the White Christmas song might be played in the white noise and they should press a button whenever hearing it. There were more button pushers among the stressed coffee drinkers. There are so many things wrong with this study and its irresponsible conclusions it defies common sense. First, the people who are susceptible to suggestion were set up – they were going to hear the song. If they happened to be the stressed coffee drinker, it might be that they were in fact more relaxed by the white noise than the others. White noise relaxes some folks and annoys others so they want to climb walls. This is hardly a study which isolates cause and effect, but in fact, there are so many unmeasured factors that no conclusion can be drawn. Anyone who is familiar with the concept of how hypnosis works will immediately conclude that the study’s only result was to separate the subjects into those who are easily hypnotized and those who are not. Also, maybe those who thought they heard the song within the white noise had stronger imaginations and since they just heard the song, something else triggered the memory of it. We all know what it’s like to have a song running though our minds. It seems rather illogical - not to mention unfair - to blame coffee for causing delusions of persecution among office workers who drink the beverage to help cope with office stress. Yet the professor actually stated that “they may (mistakenly) believe that someone around the water cooler is talking about them and they will tend to overreact." That’s a huge leap - maybe it would be better to suggest they see the pink elephants than experience schizophrenic moments. This report is a reminder to take such reports with a huge grain of salt. Unless you actually have experienced pink elephants or imagined people talking about you behind your back, this study is no reason to question your coffee consumption. Enjoy your brew in good health - and - mental well-being. If caffeine worries you, below are some great decafs to try.
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