Coffee, Tea, Cocoa And Alcohol
( Originally Published 1938 )
Probably all your life you have been lectured on the evils of these beverages and unless you have personally experienced the harm they may have wrought, you have dismissed the subject with a shrug and kept on drinking your coffee, tea or whatever be your favorite beverage.
Leaving aside the question of their effects on the morals of the nation we make no claim to be moralists and considering the subject in the light of science, we may sum up the status of the problem as follows: Human beings would be far better off without tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and alcohol as they all may have serious effect upon the system; however, our lives are so conditioned that we frequently welcome the friendly stimulation of these beverages. It is more than likely therefore that we shall have them with us as long as we inhabit this earth.
Physiologists, chemists and other scientists have been and still are studying the effect of these so called stimulants (coffee, tea and cocoa), both in the laboratory and on human beings. The results are most contradictory, but there are certain facts that are acknowledged as true by both the pros and cons. None of these beverages with the possible exception of cocoa because it has a high caloric value, should be given to children. None of them have a permanent good effect, granted that they may be temporarily beneficial. And none of them, with the exception of cocoa (and chocolate) have any real food value.
It would be impossible to give the argument for and against this group of beverages to do so would fill volumes, so we shall have to content ourselves with a brief view of their general effect.
Coffee, tea, cocoa and chocolate have much the same action. They act by increasing the strength of the heart beat, and the output of the heart and by increasing the circulation, particularly in the brain and kidneys. The improved circulation in the brain is probably the cause of the wakefulness and intellectual activity that they produce. When taken in moderate amounts by adults, they probably do some good in improving the circulation through the heart and other vital organs. It is easy to see, however, that if the imbiber had a weak heart or kidneys or suffered from an impaired circulatory system or unstable nerves, these beverages could only be harmful.
In addition to the stimulating drug element, tea, and to a less extent, coffee, contain tannin, a powerful astringent which is strongly provocative of constipation. Its action upon the mucous surface of the stomach may be highly detrimental to that organ, as it arrests the excretion of the gastric juice by its contractile effect upon the glands. Constant, immoderate use of tea and coffee will almost invariably result in digestive disturbances, and will certainly aggravate such troubles, if previously existing.
The vast majority of you who are reading this book have seen "Prohibition" come and go and are interested bystanders or participants in the effect of "Repeal". You have listened to and given arguments on every phase of the alcohol problem physiological, moral, sociological and economical. You have read or heard of statistics and experiments proving that alcohol increases mortality, that it decreases mental and physical efficiency, etc.; or, on the other hand, that alcohol, provided it is taken in moderation, does no harm and moreover, that moderate drinkers are more likely to live longer than total abstainers or heavy drinkers. As a result you have either become very skeptical or so confused that you don't know what to think.
We would like to explain to you why there is so much contradictory evidence and to discuss in detail some of the most outstanding arguments of each side. We shall have to forego the pleasure, however, for to do so would fill volumes and volumes.
We have, nevertheless, made a thorough study of the question and have come to the conclusion that the human race would be far better off without alcohol in any form or any amount whatsoever. We should like to stop with this statement, but in all fairness we believe that a few, generally recognized facts should be pointed out.
Unlike toffee and tea when taken in their pure form, alcohol has a fuel value and therefore may be considered a food. It yields 7 calories per gram which is more than proteins or carbohydrates and a little less than fat. Since it is burned in the body as soon as it is absorbed, it serves as a protein sparer, just as carbohydrates and fats do. Because of its energy value and its protein sparing action, doctors have sometimes found it advisable to prescribe it in certain forms of serious illness.
But it must be remembered that alcohol cannot build or repair tissues and contains no vitamins or minerals. Therefore it can never serve as a substitute for food. We are, of course, referring to alcohol alone. Malt beverages have a food value almost equal to that of milk and contain valuable mineral salts. Some of the other alcoholic beverages may have a food value beyond that of the alcohol itself, but in such negligible quantities that they could not possibly be considered real foods.
When taken in moderate quantities alcoholic beverages stimulate the flow of gastric juice, thus arousing the appetite and promoting good digestion. Hence for those who are used to it and are connoisseurs, they considerably heighten the enjoyment of a meal. Few people in this country, however, know how or what to drink, so that if they do try it, the result is only harm.
Alcohol is not a stimulant, as most people believe, it is just the opposite a depressant. Whatever "stimulation" a person may feel at the outset of drinking is false. It is merely an impression, caused by the fact that alcohol breaks down inhibitions. The warm glow that it seems to send over the body is due to the fact that the blood vessels are relaxed or dilated thereby permitting the blood to flow through them freely, radiating heat. There may be times when it might seem wise to take advantage of these properties of alcohol, particularly since it requires no digestion, but under ordinary circumstances there is no need, and possibly harm to take advantage of them.
So much for the benefits derived from alcohol. In comparison with its evils, they seem quite insignificant. Experiments and statistics reveal that alcohol temporarily impairs memory, decreases both mental and physical efficiency and lowers resistance to disease. It has a marked effect on bodily functions, especially those of the circulatory and nervous systems. It increases the pulse rate, but not the force of the heart beat; and since it is a depressant, it lowers the blood pressure.
It frequently seems to increase the speed of physical and mental performance, but since it reduces accuracy and uniformity or regularity, in the long run work of any kind is the poorer for it. The impression that a drinker frequently has that he has performed a task unusually well and better than he would without the aid of alcohol is entirely a delusion due to the fact that in proportion that his judgment and perspective are disturbed, his self-satisfaction is increased.
Probably the greatest harm in alcohol is its habit-forming powers, and the insidious manner in which it lays hold its victims. As the drinker becomes accustomed to the alcohol, a larger and larger quantity is necessary to produce the desired effect. The aftermath of the larger quantities is naturally worse headache, burning stomach, dry mouth, loss of appetite, racing heart, tremors, mental depression and all the other "hangover" effects become so unbearable that the unfortunate victim resorts to more drinking to temporarily mask the effects. A vicious circle is set up which is almost impossible to break. There is no need to dwell upon ultimate damage done to body and soul you all, we are sure, have known victims of alcohol.
And so we come back to our former statement: the human race would be better off without coffee, tea. cocoa, chocolate and alcohol; there are times, however, when their agreeable, if temporary effect, is almost welcome. And since they are here on earth, what is needed is not prohibition, but intelligent enlightenment as to their effects when taken in varying amounts and under varying circumstances.
To say that they are dangerous when taken in moderate amount by healthy persons would be an exaggeration. Evidence against such a statement may be found in the tea-drinking Russians, the wine drinking French peasants, the coffee-drinking Swedes. Surely no one would deny the vigor and vitality of these peoples. Equally untrue it would be to deny that in excessive quantities the beverages are dangerous. And the danger can only be avoided if you know the how, when and why of drinking.
In addition to intelligent enlightenment, better standards of hygiene are necessary. It is our firm conviction that if you get plenty of sleep, fresh air, exercise, sunshine, well-balanced and appetizing meals, and above all if you keep your intestines cleaned of the poisonous wastes which sap your vitality, you will find that the coffee, tea or alcohol which was once an apparent necessity has become a pleasant luxury, only indulged in. occasionally or if regularly, in moderate quantities, not as a stimulant or narcotic but as an adjunct of agreeable taste and aroma to your meal.