Sunday, February 23, 2020


It came up in conversation with Ally as part of the Paleo Canteen podcast that I like coffee but that it doesn't like me.

Over the years before LC my coffee ingestion had stabilised at around 7 or 8 mugs per day. That's quite a lot. At the time I started on LC I did Atkins induction and cold turkey-ed from all methyl xanthines. The headache was tolerable, especially as I knew exactly why it was there and that it would be gone by about seven days in, which it was. The need for an evening stimulant also disappeared because I no longer fell asleep during the hyperinsulinaemic phase of the post prandial period.

For which I was infamous.

Over the years I have reintroduced coffee a couple of times but  stopped it again due to either minor lower GI upsets or worsening of either low back pain or finger arthritis.

I had done a desultory Pubmed search to see if there was any evidence for clear cut, lectin induced GI damage from coffee which might explain my own signs. When the penny dropped that coffee "beans" were actually seeds rather than legume-like beans I sort of gave up hunting.

So I was avoiding coffee and expected to do so long term. My issue was that I quite like the jittery restlessness which comes from an acute large dose.

In the aftermath of chatting to Ally I received an e-mail for Mason about Dr Paul Mason, his local Dr in Sydney. I have a lot of time for Dr Mason and I really enjoyed his lecture from the 2019 conference.

It turns out that Dr Mason is pretty sure there is a lectin in coffee. Not only that but the lectin is heat labile.

If you boil your coffee for 10 minutes you appear to pretty well destroy the lectin.


I can boil down a double strength cafetiere of coffee to the volume and bitterness of a double espresso in 10 minutes.

The caffeine is still there and absolutely produces the desired pharmacological effect.

For myself, drinking two or three double espressos per day produces tachyphilaxis to the caffeine within a week or two. Withdrawal is mild and sensitivity is pretty well restored within about 4-5 days. I have no interest in using caffeine to blunt caffeine withdrawal, so coffee is probably a weekend treat.

Plant poison, undoubtedly. Contains disgusting antioxidants too, no doubt. At the moment I feel that there is an acceptable trade-off.


For those who enjoy confirmation bias and worm studies:

Lifespan Extension Induced by Caffeine in Caenorhabditis elegans is Partially Dependent on Adenosine Signaling


cavenewt said...

Hm. Probably something similar applies to cacao beans?

Peter said...

I never noticed this cave, though last week I broke carnivory for a small chocolate/cream dessert. Could easily be placebo but I had a slightly tender lower spine in the two days following. So I really don't know. The low back pain flare from sustained UK double espressos was dramatic and unarguable but took a couple of weeks to really kick in. Or at least until I put 2 and 2 together as to why I was having to take paracetamol/codeine doses...


ctviggen said...

For me, I've been trying cacao butter as a stearic acid additive. It does not seem to bother me much. I think 85% chocolate bothers me a lot more.

cavenewt said...

@ctviggen—I'm using a lot of cocoa butter myself, instead of coconut oil. I was referring actually to cacao nibs (100%, it's just broken-up beans), of which I eat a couple of spoonfuls every morning. It's a great caffeine hit for a tea drinker, and kind of addicting.

Puddleg said...

Interesting stuff, adenosine. Released from ATP by hard work, signals "time to sleep and repair" in the brain.
Released from liver macrophages, it's a chemoattractant that's essential in fibrosis.
Hence, caffeine both perks you up and saves your liver.
Also protects skin from UV, but I'm not sure if adenosine is involved, may just be light-trapping properties of methylxanthines.

Nicolas Flamel said...

Here there is a reference to a "possible" (I think is only computationally inferred) homologous gene in coffee from a gene which express a protein with a lectin-domain; however, on this study (; in Spanish, though) they looked for something like that and didn't find anything.

Of course, even if this or any actual lectin does exist in coffee, is uncertain how much would be present in the drink and how much "lectin toxicity" it would have.

Personally, I'd point to alkaloids (which also might be heat labile) as the potential culprit of those symptoms, rather than unknowns lectins.

Kyle Tengler said...

So, you tried this and it removed the GI upset for you? Just want to confirm!

Peter said...

Nicolas, I'd go with either explanation. I'm impressed you found any data at all!

Kyle, yes.


Peter said...


I know this is just BL/6 mice but I think anything which simultaneously lowers glucose and insulin has got to be a potentially useful drug on the healthspan/lifespan front...


Jay said...

Could be the reason Italians do ?reasonably well on their traditional high-carb diet of pasta - all that coffee!
?reasonably because while there is excellent longevity in Italy there's also a lot of morbidity in later life (and also a lot of healthy active elders)

Passthecream said...

I used to roast my own coffee beans. I built a hot air roaster with pid control. It is fun, messy, but very complex to get the temps and times right. There are hundreds, thousands, of compounds in coffee many of which affect the final result. When the roast is finished the beans are unuseable until they have dried and gassed out for a while, one or two weeks at least. Using them freshly roasted causes huge gastric distress.

The cholesterol obsessives at Dave Feldman's site find that for some people, coffee raises ldl significantly, can double it. This seems related to two substances, kahweol and caffestol which are both removed if you filter your coffee rather than plunger it.

So, filtering is another thing you can try. I like using those small filter presses like the Aeropress. Maybe I should borrow the French press from my wife's virology lab?

Geta said...

You described how coffee affected your arthritic joins. I made a similar experience with RA and espressi. I tried it a lot of times and I know that for me too much caffeine is not good. I "solved" the problem by adding some salt to regular coffee and having only decaf expressi. Salting strong coffee is not unusual ... I remember a colleague telling me they do this when its hot (desert folk).

Passthecream said...

Here is a direct bone related effect:

Frunobulax said...

Coffee is one of the substances where I'm definately undecided if it's good or bad :) I can tolerate it, and actually enjoy it as a mild laxative -- which of course could be a sign that my gut disagrees with the coffee.
(Sadly the "no fiber" approach doesn't work for me. For some reason I don't do well on a carnivory diet, and a lot of symptoms have improved since adding back salad/vegetables/olive oil to my diet and lowering protein, but constipation is back.)

Coffee is supposed to lower uric acid, any idea how this works? I wonder if this is simply the elimination of tea, because tea contains oxalates which may raise uric acid.

Fynegirl72 said...

Hot brewed coffee gives me heartburn. But cold brew does not. I believe it has to do with something being released from the grounds when they are hot, but that doesn't happen when they brewed cold.
Also, I drink tea at least 5 times a week, and I have not had any kidney/gout symptoms. I am type 2 diabetic and have had some minor kidney discomfort as well as minor gout symptoms (itchy joints). But not since I switched to primarily drinking hot tea on the daily.

greycrow said...

Peter, Unrelated but a suet I've been ordering that might be available to you?

Peter said...

I'll try to get to comments soon but in the meantime thanks greycrow,

I bought my first suet from those people but the cost/timing of refrigerated delivery was inconvenient. Then I sourced some from a butcher in Great Yarmouth but only very intermittently. By the time that source dried up I was already getting in trouble at home for being too skinny! Commercial refined beef dripping seems to suit me fine...


Peter said...

Hi Jay, the Italian elderly/comorbid population appears to have come to the fore currently!

Pass, I love the term “cholesterol obsessives”! As a decades long sceptic I forget how dominating cholesterol psychosis is in the general population.

Filtering came up in Mason’s email, that would be plausible had a lectin been implicated, binding to carbohydrate moieties in the filter perhaps but Nicholas’ comment lowers that on the list of probabilities.

Interesting comment Geta. I’m currently reducing my salt a little as the amount I put in my burgers leads to a background thirst which is annoying. But I’m curious about what salted coffee tastes like!

Frunobulax, I’ve not looked in to that at all but methyl xanthines are at least in part acting on adenosine receptors so some interaction is easily acceptable. Unfortunately you can show almost anything you like with adenosine receptors, depending on dose and receptor subtype chosen.

Fynegirl, ah, yet more coffee tweaks! Currently I think I’ll stay with what appears to have worked so far. I did try a cup of tea a while ago. Tasted like old dried leaves boiled in water. No hit and I never expect health benefits from plants.


grey crow's winsome hope said...

Peter, have you ever try caffeine pills? the ones without inflammatory excipients seem like a convenient bet. I enjoy coffee too, but being able to pop one as i wake up from the nightstand can't be beat in terms of ease.

Andrew said...

hi Peter,

Love you work and insights. Have been a long time observer of your blog despite so many things, including your concept / theme of "Protons" ~ still beyond me.

If you don't mind, I've mapped out conversation timestamps of your podcast with Ally @ PaleoCanteen. This I believe would assist prospective listeners.

I've already raised a request directly with Ally, and he's approved the conversation map.

Once again, great conversation.

AW™ /

Peter said...

Hi Andrew, that looks fine. We did no planning to the conversation and I'm really good at wandering... Paul Saladino and I are chatting about a conversation. I think we'll make it much more structured and Protons based.


Peter said...

Hi grey crow's winsome hope, sorry I missed your comment. I've tried caffeine pills at 250mg with increased alertness but no buzz like a double stewed expresso. I try to keep my caffeine exposure low enough not to need to correct withdrawal to function. Been there, done that...


cavenewt said...

Peter said "Paul Saladino and I are chatting about a conversation. I think we'll make it much more structured and Protons based."

I trust you'll let us know somehow when this is available? Really looking forward to it. Every time I read something about Protons I understand just a little bit more.

Peter said...

Will do cave


Erik Middeldorp said...

Hi Peter,
All the beef dripping I can find here in NZ comes in polypropylene plastic containers. Robb Wolf has said plasticisers (or something) might leach into fat in contact with plastic and that it's more likely when it's hot, which the dripping would be when they fill the container. But the info I could find online all said polypropylene was ok. Do you know if this is something I should be worried about or if it's not a problem?

Peter said...

Hi Eric, sorry, never thought about it specifically. But as we're on the "coffee" post I wonder how it might compare to consuming bulk plant neurotoxin insecticides such as caffeine. Yet I personally indulge in ultra-processed coffee...


Erik Middeldorp said...

Thanks for your reply. That's a good point. I have an on-again/off-again relationship with coffee, mainly because of how it impacts my sleep.