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I’d hate to have to get that one past the IRB

In which we learn that kings get to define their own protocols, and that coffee might be good for you.

“Coffee drinking was compared with tea drinking in monozygotic twins in 18th century,” Lars Breimer, BMJ, vol. 312, June 15, 1996, p. 1539. The author, at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, explains:

“One of the more peculiar attempts to throw light on the question of whether drinking coffee is bad for one’s health’ was carried out in the 18th century by King Gustaf III of Sweden…. A pair of monozygotic twins had been sentenced to death for murder. Gustaf III commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment on the condition that one twin drank a large bowl of tea three times a day and that the other twin drank coffee. The twin who drank tea died first, aged 83-a remarkable age for the time. Thus the case was settled: coffee was the less dangerous of the two beverages. The king, on the other hand, was murdered at a masked ball in 1792 at the age of 45 and became the subject of an opera by Verdi.”

Although, I have to say, the n is really small, and the controls are inadequate.

Comments

  1. says

    Tea totally doesn’t have caffeine in it, either?!

    I’ve always wondered how much of any of the alleged benefits of tea is simply because it encouraged people to boil their water before drinking it.

  2. Usernames are smart says

    I’ve always wondered how much of any of the alleged benefits of tea is simply because it encouraged people to boil their water before drinking it.
    — Marcus Ranum (#1)

    The issues with drinking regular water were known in at least Roman times. To solve it, they made very weak alcoholic drinks, which had just enough to kill the bacteria, but really not enough to get a buzz.

    It wasn’t until the advent of distillation that we see alcohol go from disinfecting water to getting a good buzz/wasted.

  3. David Marjanović says

    It wasn’t until the advent of distillation that we see alcohol go from disinfecting water to getting a good buzz/wasted.

    Where are you getting this part from? People have been getting drunk on beer and wine for as long as those have existed. It just used to take them longer, I guess.

  4. andyo says

    Please, there are more pressing matters at hand. Has anyone yet figured out why coffee only makes you poop in the morning?

  5. says

    figured out why coffee only makes you poop in the morning?

    It could be dehydration?

    Back in the day when the only liquid I drank was coffee, I had cause to wonder this, as well.

  6. says

    Ah, fun with IRBs! The last university I attended delegated all human-subject issues to its affiliated medical center. Hence to study the misconceptions of algebra students I had to fill out forms in which I promised not to take tissue samples from them or — if I did — told me how to obtain informed consent first. (I decided I could do without the tissue samples.)

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    People have been getting drunk on beer and wine for as long as those have existed. It just used to take them longer, I guess.

    In Plato’s dialogues people vary the amount of water they will add to the wine depending on whether they are going to have a serious discussion or a booze-up.

  8. says

    Good King Gustaf has an out: institutional review boards did not exist until the late 1960s.

    @Marcus #1 – At the time Gustaf III was king, coffee was made by adding ground roasted coffee beans into a pot, boiling the water, and then straining the result into a serving pot. Tea, in contrast, was made by boiling the water first, then adding the tea to the hot water after it was taken off the heat. If anything, coffee would have been more sterile.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Although, I have to say, the n is really small, and the controls are inadequate.

    Indeed. Ideally one would include some German and French operas as well to balance out the study.

  10. chris61 says

    I’m curious at to how, it being the 18th century and all, it was known that these were monozygotic twins.

  11. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Although, I have to say, the n is really small, and the controls are inadequate.

    In fact, although the n is small, it’s likely the controls were very good. Probably the two were kept in prison under conditions identical in every respect except whether they drank tea or coffee.

  12. chris61 says

    “In fact, although the n is small, it’s likely the controls were very good. Probably the two were kept in prison under conditions identical in every respect except whether they drank tea or coffee.”

    Except of course that they presumably weren’t incarcerated at birth nor it seems to me can we be certain that they were monozygotic twins. Even if they were monozygotic twins, there’s lots of evidence nowadays that even monozygotic twins aren’t genetically identical.

  13. coragyps says

    Coffee promotes a good morning poop because caffeine (or something else in there) promote peristalsis.

  14. Al Dente says

    I don’t drink coffee (can’t stand the bitter taste) and I poop in the morning.

  15. says

    Where are you getting this part from? People have been getting drunk on beer and wine for as long as those have existed. It just used to take them longer, I guess.

    It used to be common to give kids beer, especially for people living in cities. It was nutritious and safe to drink

  16. rick longworth says

    “figured out why coffee only makes you poop in the morning?”

    Wait, that can’t be right. I poop whenever my hands start to tremble.

  17. weatherwax says

    Most of the water supply in Europe had been contaminated, and the brewing process decontaminated it, which is why only prisoners and paupers drank water.

    After the main batch, the mash was re-used to make weaker bear called small beer, which is what children drank.

  18. plainenglish says

    well, tickle my colon, coffee is medicine and Tim Horton is my doc. If you poop in the morning without coffee, well, that’s rough(age) but if like me you suffer mental distress without morning meds, then coffee leads to the healthy evacuation into the new day! My mother used to say, “Did you grunt this morning?” meaning lay-wire or dump or defacate (a word that leaves me up-to-my-ears in it) and I suspect she used that word because we kids were raised on processed foods, the glories of Kraft Dinner and Wonderbread, the balogna baloney, that stuff. No wonder we grunted. If only Timmy had been around…..
    ummm, what was this thread about again?

  19. plainenglish says

    I believe the actual term is ‘lay-cable’. I regret and apologize for my use of the wire….. wait, that sounds wrong… coffee please!

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Although, I have to say, the n is really small

    Well be fair: how many murdering pairs of monozygotic twins do you think Gustav had access to?

  21. unclefrogy says

    I have long suspected that it is not caffeine alone that is the reason that America prefers coffee over tea. it is the digestive stimulation without which there would be many more constipated people.
    uncle frogy

  22. robnyny says

    Another opera: Auber’s Gustave III.

    Drunkenness is mentioned at least twice in the Bible.

  23. says

    Hm, I’m with coragyps #15: the morning poop is nothing to do with coffee per se and is all to do with the reawakening of peristalsis by ingesting foodstuffs of any sort (including beverages) after the sleeptime intestinal shutdown.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    Myself, I appear to be super-sensitive to coffe. At least, my intestines are. Iswitched to tea a week ago, and my stomach got much better.

    In regard to Swedish kings and science, a century ago Oscar II took an interest wether the solar system was orbitally stable.
    The new Japanese emperor has also showed a strong interest in science. The rest of royalty seem to be as uninterested as the rich blokes they socialise with. But the Spanish royal house may be forced to take an interest in the DNA tech used to track relations, as their succession does not depend on a prince being born in or out of wedlock -the former king’s son outside marriage is older than the official prince (now the new king).

  25. says

    The Spanish monarchy must be absolutely unique in not excluding out-of-wedlock offspring from the line of succession – kings have repeatedly had children by their mistresses in every royal dynasty, and surely one of the Spanish Fitzroys would have mounted a challenge to the succession in past centuries if this was how the Spanish law is written. I can’t find anything about illegitimate descendants being part of any confusion about the line of succession in Spain – only confusion about whether renunciations of rights to the succession made by collateral (but still within wedlock) lines of the royal family before a certain law was made still apply under that law to their descendants.

  26. says

    playonwords #31
    But does that have any biological significance when drinking it? All sorts of things are anti-bacterial when spread on a petri dish. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

  27. longship says

    Of course, JS Bach put this argument to music, in a most wonderful way. The “Coffee Cantata” BWV 211, his only secular cantata. And it is indeed wonderful.

  28. birgerjohansson says

    Next test: A royal decree that half the population gets to drink alcohol free of charge, and the other half Cava.

  29. birgerjohansson says

    …and what about that special coffee made from beans that have passed through the intestine of civets? We should test that too.

  30. says

    “The king, on the other hand, was murdered at a masked ball in 1792 at the age of 45 and became the subject of an opera by Verdi.”

    I wonder which fate is considered worse?

    (Oh and he was a right little Psamtik I, wasn’t he??)

  31. hillaryrettig says

    Did the guy who stabbed the king drink coffee or tea?

    There’s a theory floating around that the European revolutions of 18th and 19th century were fomented by 3 new imports – coffee, chocolate, and sugar. All three helped energize the populations.

  32. David Marjanović says

    It could be dehydration?

    Coffee does not dehydrate you. It just feels that way, because the icky stuff glues itself to your palate. *yuck*

    I’m curious at to how, it being the 18th century and all, it was known that these were monozygotic twins.

    It was, at minimum, known that there are identical twins and twins that are no more similar to each other than any other siblings.

    The new Japanese emperor has also showed a strong interest in science.

    Like his father, he’s a marine biologist. He has published descriptions of new fish species in Nature under the pseudonym “His Majesty the Emperor of Japan”.

    I can’t find anything about illegitimate descendants being part of any confusion about the line of succession in Spain –

    It’s happening right now. I posted that in the [Lounge] a few days ago.

  33. says

    Ah, I see. I was looking at reputable sites about the monarchy’s official line of succession, and the story derives from claims in tabloids about a paternity lawsuit, which even were it to prove that Albert Solà Jiménez is the son of King Juan Carlos would not, so far as I can see other than in tabloids, place him in the line of succession.

    Again, I would find it astonishing if Spain truly did not have similar rules regarding the barring of children born out of wedlock from succession as the rest of Europe does, and since Section 57 of the Spanish Constitution seems to carefully use the word “successors” rather than “descendants” in its wording, as well as “the regular order of primogeniture” where primogeniture as a legal term has always excluded offspring not born within approved marriages, at this stage my bet would be that the tabloids have got it all wrong (and probably know full well that they’ve got it all wrong) but are beating up this juicy scandal to make it look more consequential than it is.