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Drinking More Coffee May Undo Liver Damage From Booze

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Drinking more coffee might help reduce the kind of liver damage that’s associated with overindulging in food and alcohol, a review of existing studies suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from nine previously published studies with a total of more than 430,000 participants and found that drinking two additional cups of coffee a day was linked to a 44% lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such,” said lead study author Dr. Oliver Kennedy of Southampton University in the U.K.

“Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage,” Kennedy added by email.

Cirrhosis kills more than one million people every year worldwide. It can be caused by hepatitis infections, excessive alcohol consumption, immune disorders, and fatty liver disease, which is tied to obesity and diabetes.

Kennedy and colleagues did a pooled analysis of average coffee consumption across earlier studies to see how much adding two additional cups each day might influence the odds of liver disease.

Combined, the studies included 1,990 patients with cirrhosis.

In eight of the nine studies analyzed, increasing coffee consumption by two cups a day was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of cirrhosis.

In all but one study, the risk of cirrhosis continued to decline as daily cups of coffee climbed.

Compared to no coffee consumption, researchers estimated one cup a day was tied to a 22% lower risk of cirrhosis. With two cups, the risk dropped by 43%, while it declined 57% for three cups and 65% with four cups.

But the results still leave some unresolved questions.

One study, for example, found a stronger link between coffee consumption and reduced cirrhosis risk with filtered coffee than with boiled coffee.

And, while the studies accounted for alcohol consumption, not all them accounted for other cirrhosis risk factors like obesity and diabetes, the authors note in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, online January 25.

Patients also shouldn’t take the findings to mean loading up on frothy caramel lattes packed with sugar and topped with whipped cream is a good way to prevent liver disease, Kennedy cautioned. It’s also not clear exactly how coffee might lead to a healthier liver, or whether the type of beans or brewing method matter.

“Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver,” Kennedy said.

It’s also important to note that coffee isn’t powerful enough to counteract lifestyle choices that can severely damage the liver, said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the systematic damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, sedentary, excessive alcohol consumption or drastically mitigate an unhealthy diet,” Heller said by email.

Cups of cappuccino sit on a table during the World Coffee Conference in Guatemala City February 26, 2010. REUTERS/Daniel LeClair

Let 18-Year-Olds Drink

In America, alleged land of freedom, a 19-year-old soldier just back from Afghanistan can’t sidle up to a bar and legally order a beer.

In supposedly regulation-crazed Europe, meanwhile, an 18-year-old can order a martini. In the beer-drinking cultures of Belgium and Germany, a 16-year-old can ask for beer or wine.
Do you detect a flaw in this story?

Prohibition has been gone for over 80 years. Most agree that it was worse than the disease it was meant to eradicate — the scourge of drunkenness. Nowadays, backers of drug legalization rightly hold up Prohibition as their model for failed policy.

Yet we see few arguments for lowering the national drinking age from the current 21 to 18, where it was until 1984. On the contrary, the public is still being pummeled by “expert” studies linking virtually any alcohol consumption to a variety of maladies, from cancer to road fatalities.

Britain has just issued the U.K. chief medical officer’s new guidelines for alcohol consumption. They’re just short of nuts. They make no distinction between the ability of men and women to process alcohol. Wiser guidelines note that female bodies can’t take as much.

The doctors set a weekly limit for drinking at a strangely low six pints of beer or four large glasses of wine. A 30-year-old male weightlifter or a 74-year old female “wisp of a thing,” same guideline.

The report goes on. Any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis raises the risk of mouth, throat and breast cancers. An Associated Press story on the guidelines authoritatively announces, “Alcohol is a known carcinogen.” How is that?

The Harvard School of Public Health has noted a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, but with an asterisk. “Getting extra folate (a B vitamin) may cancel out this alcohol-related increase,” according to its report titled “Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits.”

As for the benefits, Harvard cites numerous studies showing moderate drinking seems to lower the risk of cardiovascular death. The British report made the most grudging nod in that direction. It said that red wine might be good for heart only if you are a woman over age 55 and drink no more than two glass a week.

Would the good doctors please explain why moderate drinkers live longer than those who don’t drink at all?

There’s this urge to simply lay blame for all kinds of societal ills possibly related to alcohol on alcohol only. True, alcoholism is a curse for those afflicted and their loved-ones. What makes it a curse is the addiction part. Some people simply shouldn’t drink.

Drunken driving is a menace, but the problem is drinking and driving, not the drinking itself. The bar fly who pours himself into a taxi at the end of the evening is no danger on the road — far less so than the teetotaler fiddling with the car’s infotainment system.

Binge drinking is both unhealthy and unsightly. It reflects mostly immaturity and a lack of education on civilized drinking. Some of it, ironically, stems from drinking bans on college campuses. Former Kenyon College President S. Georgia Nugent has made this argument. She’s written that students heading off to a party knowing no alcohol will be served engage in “pre-gaming,” that is, consuming huge quantities in advance.

Britain has never taken this nanny talk seriously enough to raise its legal drinking age from the current 18. By the way, the drinking age in Canada is 19 and in almost all of Latin America, 18.

America stands pretty much alone in treating people old enough to marry, vote and fight in wars like children. Time to let 18-year-olds drink and manage themselves.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Why should 18-year-olds have to wait three years to legally purchase and consume wine, when they can legally fight in a war? (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Resolution: Vow To Learn More About Wine In 2016

By Michael Austin, Chicago Tribune (TNS)

I can’t say that just about anybody could keep a New Year’s resolution to drink more, because frankly, I don’t believe it.

We’re not talking about spring break-drinking here or the kind of drinking one might have done while on tour with an arena rock band in the ’70s. We’re talking about thoughtful drinking, more about tasting than getting your buzz on. The softening, euphoric effects of wine will always be there, but that is only part of what draws most of us to the world’s most enchanting beverage.

What also draw us are the aromas and flavors, the way wine makes food taste better, the places it leads us to in our imaginations. Learning more about wine — what you personally really love about wine — will only enhance your enjoyment. But this kind of drinking requires focus and commitment, and not everyone is up for that. Some people just want to relax, say, “Mmmm,” and leave it at that. No one is going to stop you. But for those of you who are on a continual quest to know more, it’s going to take some work.

In 2016, vow to keep a steady supply of wine on hand and stick to a system as you work your way through it. Keeping a log is a good idea. It forces you to critically consider what you’re drinking, so that the next time you choose a wine, you’ll have that much more information in your brain. It provides a record of your thoughts, so you don’t have to memorize every wine you’ve ever tried, and it allows you to look back and reflect on your journey — like stamps in a passport or stickers on a suitcase.

But as a friend of mine asked recently about navigating the dense forest of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, “Where do you begin?” The answer is, you start in the middle and work your way out. Don’t try to learn about cabs from Napa Valley as a whole. First, learn about cabs from Rutherford, Oakville or Howell Mountain (or the Napa Valley region of your choosing), and then move on to other regions.

That same approach could be tweaked and applied to anywhere in the world. Don’t get overwhelmed by France, or even by Bordeaux (or Pauillac). Instead, start with the Loire Valley, but rather than focusing on its legendary whites, dive into the cabernet francs of Chinon. There is no wrong entry point, as long as there is enough wine to taste.

If you are at the beginning of your wine journey, start by familiarizing yourself with some classic grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or riesling (which is not always sweet, as many beginners believe). Pick a grape, and drink it for a month. It doesn’t matter where the bottles are from — just smell and taste as much of that grape as you can. If you’ve got those grapes in your knowledge bank already, venture into syrah/shiraz, sangiovese, tempranillo, malbec, grenache or zinfandel. Drink a grape a month.

If you are more about place and love maps as much as I do, pick a wine spot on the globe and explore one of its classic offerings: Chile (carmenere), Argentina (malbec), Australia (shiraz), South Africa (pinotage). Obviously it’s easier to find cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley than carmenere from Chile, which is why these categories are so broad. If you can zero in even more, go ahead and pick a region, and drink a specific grape only from there — like shiraz from the Barossa Valley of Australia.

Regardless, the approach remains: Start at the bull’s eye of your choice, and proceed to the edges of your wine education dart board. You can’t go wrong. What if you learned everything there is to know about pinot gris from Oregon or became an expert on Chianti but you didn’t know much about the wines of Spain or Germany? How worse off would you be?

What if you knew the wines of one producer in Sonoma County the way you know your own family or if you knew the malbec grape so intimately that you could expound on the differences between styles from France and Argentina? Wouldn’t either or both of those scenarios help you understand all other wines better? Of course they would. The point is, be deliberate.

Get yourself a notebook; commit to keeping a log. Focus on one category of wine a month. Jot down descriptive words. Devise a rating system: numbers one through five, letters A through C, or the words Yes and No. Up to you. Just make wine tasting a part of your life, and start thinking more about what you are tasting. If you are a lifelong learner, someone interested in the evolution of all things alive, you can only go, “Mmmm,” for so long before your inner searcher demands to know more.

Knowing more requires drinking more, but it doesn’t have to be about volume. It can be about frequency. Have you ever seen a drunk Italian? It’s rare because they drink a glass or two with dinner and then cut themselves off. If they have 14 glasses of wine in a week, it probably breaks down to two a night — not seven each on Friday and Saturday.

At lunch years ago, an Italian winemaker poured a bottle of his wine into a thin-necked decanter. Someone asked how anyone would clean it. He looked puzzled. “There is no need to clean it,” he said. “Just keep putting wine in it.”

(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Pair Cheeses With Beer, Whiskey Or Wine For Your Holiday Party

By Arthi Subramaniam, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

When alcohol and cheese meet, feel a chemistry and fall in love, it is a marriage made in heaven. And that’s what you want at your holiday party when you pair cheese with beer, whiskey or wine.

“The main thing is that you want a cohesive flavor from the cheese and the beer,” says Alix Wiggins of Wheel & Wedge, a premier source of American-made cheeses in Pittsburgh. “You don’t want one to overpower the other.”

Wes Shank of Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh’s Strip District echoes a similar thought and says whiskey and cheese should be complementary and not screaming at each other. “Think of whiskey as a rye or corn bread. If cheese goes well with a rye bread, it means that the cheese would be perfect with a rye whiskey,” he says.

Deb Mortillaro of Dreadnought Wines in Lawrenceville doesn’t favor following rules when pairing cheese and wine, but does advise to match the intensity. “The more intense the cheese is, the more intense the wine should be,” she says. “Also, start with a light and finish with a fortified wine.”

When it comes to tasting the cheese and the booze, do what the pros do. Smell the beer, whiskey or wine and get a nose for it. Then take a sip of the drink and get a sense of it. Take a bite of the cheese and then take a sip of the drink again. If the flavors linger and meld wonderfully, it’s a winning pair.

Neither the drink nor cheese should be served ice cold. Cheese should be taken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Whiskey needs to be served at room temperature, and beer needs to be poured and allowed to sit for some time to bring out its flavors. Often white wines are served too cold and reds too warm, says Rob McCaughey of Palate Partners in Lawrenceville. So whites need to be taken out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving, while reds need to be put into the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

It could be daunting to choose from a wide variety of cheeses. Jen Lawton, a cheese coordinator at East End Food Co-op and a certified cheese professional by the American Cheese Society, says de-stress by first setting a theme. It could be done by picking cheeses from a certain region or going with a particular style such as those with interesting rinds. “From there you can play with mixing milks (goat, sheep, cow) or textures (hard, soft, spreadable) or appearances,” Lawton says.

Also, don’t overcrowd the cheese plate. Stick to three or five varieties.

Goat cheeses rolled in edible ash, which acts as a preservative and adds a mineral note, and blue cheeses covered with leaves such as grape, oak and chestnut will add oomph to a cheese plate. A saison or light rye whiskey will pair well with the ash-ripened cheese, while there’s nothing like a white port for the blue.

You could add a cheese that looks pretty like a young goat Gouda with a colorful yellow or red wax rind. Pair it with a beer with that has a little maltiness such as a bock, Wiggins says, to complement the tang of the goat’s milk. A mature Gouda with a black-wax covering will go well with a full-bodied, lightly oaked white like a California chardonnay, McCaughey says.

With harmonious pairings like them, you can be assured of merriment at your holiday party.


There’s a natural marriage between cheese and a beverage made from fermented barley, hops, water and yeast. Cows live on grains, and so it’s only logical that the two flavors are complementary.

— The manchego-style Roth Kase Gran Queso, which dons a cinnamon-rubbed rind, would go well with pumpkin beers and Christmas ales that have cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, says Alix Wiggins of Wheel & Wedge.
— Pit funk against funk by serving the semi-soft, beer-washed Bamboozle, which is aged for 70 days, with a farmhouse ale, light Belgian or saison.
— Porters and stouts pair nicely with blue cheese as the sweet molasses from the beer complements the saltiness of the blue.
— Jasper Hills Landaff, a semi-firm tomme (made from skimmed milk) that has cheddar characteristics and buttermilk notes balances the dry bitterness of hoppy beers, mainly IPAs.
— The roastiness of a stout or porter can cut through the buttery texture of a double cream Fromager D’ Affinois. The plain cheese also can be paired with a lambic or another fruity beer.
_ Beer’s carbonation also helps to keep the cheese flavors distinct and cuts through their fat. So the high carbonation level of a hefeweizen or a wheat beer would do exactly that to a fresh chevre.


Another natural partner for a hunk of cheese is whiskey, which also comes from grains, says Wes Shank of Wigle Whiskey. They are aged in a similar way and cured in caves. So even though whiskey has a high alcohol content and is in-your-face bold, it has the characteristics to create a foil for cheese.

Whiskey also shares nuances with wine and beer. Sniff and swirl whiskey in a glass, much like wine, and watch the “legs” drip down. If the legs are thick, the whiskey has a heavier mouthfeel; when the drip is thin and fast-moving, it is more delicate. Whiskey has beer notes as well, whether it’s dark and complex or fruity with a hint of sweetness.
— With its earthiness, Wigle’s flagship Monongahela Rye Whiskey complements the funky power of the Fat Cat, which has a grassy finish. Also, the distinctive black pepper spice in the drink melds well with the washed-rind creamy cheese.
— An aged sheep feta that is not salty but very smooth does wonders with Wigle’s Maple Wood Wheat Whiskey. It highlights the soft maple notes that the whiskey has acquired after being aged in maple wood for several months.
— Apple and blue cheese go on a roller-coaster ride when Wigle Walkabout Apple Whiskey is paired with Birchrun Blue. Sweet apple notes shine through the spicy characteristics of the whiskey and the slightly peppery creaminess of the blue.
— Wigle’s Pennsylvania Bourbon and Old Gold Gouda are loud when paired, but the caramel and vanilla characters of the whiskey made with an earthy corn give a wonderful background to the firm, tangy and aged cheese.


This is the quintessential match with a universal appeal.

Variety is the name of the game, and so arrange a plate with aged and younger; soft and hard; and rind and rindless cheeses. Uncork wines with higher acid and lower acid; high alcohol and low alcohol; and full-bodied and light. But don’t pull out everything at the same time at the party, says Deb Mortillaro of Dreadnought Wines. “Staggering them is key.”

Mortillaro says there is no need to fear the great whites when it comes to cheese. “Whites are not only OK with cheese, but they are better than their red counterparts,” she says because sometimes the tannins in the reds clash with the cheese.

— Pair regionally by opening a Pares Balta Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain, and complement it with a light and relatively neutral Spanish Pata Cabra.
— A long aging process gives the Park Provolone Sharp an extra kick to uncork the creaminess in the De Wetshof Limestone Chardonnay, a unwooded white.
— Aged Calabreso Pecorino has a meanness to it. But it meets its match in the intense Pares Balta Mas Elena, which is meaty and has nuances of licorice and spices. The red is elegant, but it knows how to stand up to the sheep cheese.
— Bold and blue with a dense veining, the chestnut leaf-wrapped Valdeon draws out the nuances of flowers and fruit in the Ferreira White Lagrima Porto.

(c)2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Cheese paired with alcohol, whether beer, whiskey, or wine, is a match made in heaven. (Fotolia)