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Health: Ban caffeine or risk 'White Christmas' syndrome

Espresso We banned liquor once. We've practically banned smoking. Some people now want to ban circumcision.

But do we have the courage to ban caffeine?

It's not about a "nanny state." It's about saving our minds.

It seems that "Australian researchers at La Trobe University have just published a study suggesting that people on a serious caffeine buzz are prone to hear things that aren't there," The Times reported Wednesday on its Booster Shots blog.

It gets worse. As the post details:

The researchers brought volunteers to a lab. The subjects -- some highly caffeinated, some not -- put on headphones that pumped out white noise. They were told that Bing Crosby’s "White Christmas" would be playing in the background, which was actually just a white lie. Even though Bing wasn’t anywhere around, some of the caffeine-addled listeners said they could hear the song … The researchers concluded that five regular cups of coffee could be enough to increase the risk of auditory hallucinations.

Admit it: It makes you think twice about that daily Starbucks run, doesn't it? Is that guy with the tinfoil hat really nuts, or has he just had too many Mountain Dews and is trying to block out Bing?

And did you know that "White Christmas" is the most recorded Christmas song of all time? Coincidence?  Sure, and there are no aliens at Area 51 either.

As with all scientific studies, and especially ones involving Australians, there are some caveats:

"The study has some flaws -- it was small, it was published in an obscure journal, and it wasn't well-controlled."

OK, right, a little troubling. But simply because these guys tested their theory on a girlfriend, a brother and the guy in line at the vending machine doesn't mean it's bogus. 

As the post continues:

The main finding seems plausible enough. Caffeine certainly can heighten the senses, and there's growing evidence that it can cause mild hallucinations. A 2009 survey found that people who drank the equivalent of three or more cups of brewed coffee a day were three times more likely than other people to report hearing and seeing things that aren't there.

So there you have it. Apparently, thousands of Americans on the left and the right aren't crazy; they’re simply amped up on caffeine. 

Coffee drinkers especially aren't going to like this ban idea. In fact, if you go to the post, you'll find related stories that show just how complex the issue of coffee drinking is. 

For example, there's this headline: "Sex and coffee may raise risk of brain hemorrhage in some people,"  which, OK, would seem to be a major argument in favor of the caffeine ban.

But then there's this: "Coffee seems to lower the risk of lethal prostate cancer." So maybe we'd have to grandfather in an exception for old guys.

And, of course, as always these days, there's an economic angle: "Coffee prices are getting a jolt."

Still, this issue should be a natural for the "tea party" types. After all, it goes all the way back to our Founding Fathers: They didn't throw coffee into Boston Harbor, you know. And I'll bet Paul Revere didn't have a couple of lattes before setting out on his ride to warn the British, er, Americans, er, oh, whoever.

But we're not here to bury coffee; we're here to save the nation.  

Who's with me?


The soda tax fallacy

Should there be a 'fat tax'?

Curbing our junk-food appetite

Human memory: What did you do last Sunday?

Does Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' concept infringe on personal freedom?

 -- Paul Whitefield

Photo: A shot of espresso is poured at the Undergrounds Coffeehaus Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images


Comments () | Archives (21)

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Gray, Germany

I've also read that people died while having sex! Pls investigate this. And call for a ban if its true!


Oh, a Tea Party/Sarah Palin jab. Gosh, you're SO witty. It must be a burden to be so much more intelligent than all us common folk.

Angela Birch

And there is something wrong with hearing white christmas even when it isn't there??
Gosh, we have someone pointing out if you drink enough coffee you might hear white christmas when it isn't there, or maybe it was just suggestable subject. I wonder what they would hear if the song isn't suggested to them.

On the other hand it cuts your risk of strokes, cancer, Alzheimers, reduces your risk of diabetes. I can listen to a lot of imaginary music with those benefits.

Stephen J. Smith

Whitefield, it IS about the nanny state.

This used to be a free country until well intentioned, but misguided fools such as yourself thought it ok to think for other people.

Your rights end the moment they infringe upon mine.


Your stupid article makes me want to chug a gallon of coffee.


One more reason to move out of California


Would it be safe to assume that this article was supposed to be "lite"?

Some people are invariably responsive to the power of suggestion - no matter what they have imbibed, eaten or thought previously.

There have been many well researched studies on the benefits of caffeinated coffee. We all know that a good cup of coffee in the morning is necessary (and probably addictive at that).

On the other hand, if coffee drinkers hear Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, can it so bad? I'd prefer hearing Beethoven's 5th symphony, but Bing's crooning would be ok.


Wait, wait, wait... You post:
"there's this headline: 'Sex and coffee may raise risk of brain hemorrhage in some people,' which, OK, would seem to be a major argument in favor of the caffeine ban."

... we're banning caffeine but not sex?!? Why ban one brain hemorrhaging drug just to keel over from a brain hemorrhaging activity? It's quite simple: it's all or nothing. We ban caffeine and we ban sex and we lower our risk of brain hemorrhage. And that's not even getting into the number of deaths associated with sexually transmitted diseases...

It's a public health hazard NOT to ban both.


There is a fine line between funny and annoying. Unfortunately, this wasn't anywhere near that line.


Let's see, people have been drinking coffee as a beverage since at least the 15th Century. The Bing Crosby recording of "White Christmas" came out in the 1940s. So what songs were people having caffiene induced audio hallucinations in the past 5 and a half centuries before then? I sincerely hope federal funds didn't go into this bit of pseudoscience.


But it's OK to let people get drunk off their butt and have liquour lobbies buying our legislators? LIQUOR KILLS. Do something about that.


This person is an idiot.


You're right, we should ban caffeine. And junk food. And cigarettes. And red meat. And make recreational drug use punishable by firing squad. Don't turn down the volume on your telescreen too much!

Ted Jones

for the record these are not hallucinations. there are auditory illusions - misinterpreting existing sensory input - rather than having sensations that are not there. sensory illusions are common in people who are quite anxious - or on caffeine. it is not psyhosis. it makes a more dramatic headline to call them hallucinations but this is not true.

Eugene Thunderblunt

Yes, let's ban coffee. The Zetas would love to have a fallback product to sell if marijuana gets legalized.


Drinking 30 glasses of water in a half an hour will KILL YOU. A little bit less and you'll have permanent, massive kidney damage.

If you are completely submerged in it for over 8 minutes you will die from lack of oxygen; a bit less and you'll end up with permanent brain damage.

Shall we ban water?

Tim Bowman

In better times, we would lock up the author of this editorial in a rubber room.


It's an interesting little tidbit about caffeine, but it certainly doesn't justify even considering a ban. I hope this is a joke or bout of poorly executed sarcasm.


Right about this not being about a "nanny State" It's about accepting a True Police State with people dumber than dumb telling us what to do, when and why. And prison for those who do not fall in line. For our health, lets outlaw these evil 'do-gooders' and their hatred and intollerence. Prison is too good for these 'do-gooder' animals.


this is a joke ed. doofuses!

Phil, Ohio

Come on!
The study is flawed!
The researchers subconsciously implanted in the subject's head the familiar song we have heard around holidays since childhood ".

This only proves why I hate Christmas music! Its the same songs every year and we are tired of them!



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