Go Easy On That Grande Latte!

The hard truth about Frappuccino, Mochas, and Lattes
I am not usually a party pooper, but someone has to push the warning button. Those fancy tall coffee beverages that have invaded coffee shops are bad for your health. There, I said it. Now, here is why and what you should do about it.
Let me first reassure coffee lovers. Drinking reasonable quantity of coffee is good for your health. In Harvard’s Dr. Frank Hu’s words,“There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health” (1). Therefore, the problem lies in what is added to the coffee.

More of everything
I enjoy reading and writing in coffee shops. One day, as I passively observed the commotion around me, 2 women settled at a table near by. Shortly after, a phone shaped device started vibrating on their table. The younger one quickly rose from her chair to go get the drinks, but apparently, she did not feel confident carrying the tray and asked one of the employees to help her with it. On top of the tray sat 2 large, imposing glasses filled to the full with a creamy chocolaty drink. Passed the initial kid like surge to taste it, I wondered how someone could drink half a liter of this mix in one go. A glass like this can have as much calories and sugar as there are in a bottle of regular coke. Many people thinking that they are just drinking a coffee with some milk and flavoring do not realize the high concentration of sugar they are consuming. Starbucks, which has popularized this type of beverages, has on its menu the ‘Double Chocolaty Frappuccino’ that comes with 500 calories and 98g of sugar (One liter of regular coke – about 34 ounces – contains 480 calories and 120g of sugar). A simple Latte is about 200 calories. A Cafe Mocha topped with whipped cream contains 330 calories with 15 g of fat and 44 g of sugar. These highly caloric and sweet beverages present another concern. They have the sometime explosive mix of coffee and milk, which can affect the quality of digestion.
Most of us are lactose intolerant
Many people have a hard time digesting milk due to lactose intolerance. They have a deficiency in the lactase enzyme, which is necessary to break down milk protein. This condition is common to all mammals. When the baby starts to transition from the mother’s milk to solid food his ability to digest milk naturally decreases. About 75% of humans have in adulthood some degree of lactase deficiency, the people in the south hemisphere presenting a higher deficiency than their northern counterparts (2). Therefore, drinking milk can disturb someone’s digestion and bowel transit without necessarily being aware of it. In addition, the combination coffee and milk seems to be even more challenging than milk alone, on the digestive tract, especially on the duodenum part. If science doesn’t motivate you to slowdown on that hazardous mix, maybe a cultural outlook on that matter will.
What the Italians have to say?
If Starbucks has contributed to make Espresso, Cappuccino and Latte, household names across the globe, it is important to remember that the country of the Espresso remains Italy. In this land where eating and drinking are closely interlaced with the culture, no one pour milk in their coffee after 12:00am. In fact, most Italians will only do it for breakfast, if they do it at all. Passed morning time, having milk with your coffee will be viewed as simply peculiar to sacrilegious depending on the hour of the day. I remember attending a conference in the city of Como, in the Lombardy region. Many of the attendees were coming from abroad and
stayed at the same hotel of the event. In the evening, a dozen of us dinned at the hotel restaurant. At the end of a glorious meal the waiter asked us if we would like coffee. “One cappuccino, please” answered a young man on our table. Being in a four stars hotel, the waiter was well trained and professional. I could yet see in his eyes a look of disbelief bordering on indignation. So why Italians do not add milk to their coffee passed morning time? “It’s bad for digestion” most would reply. Italians like to eat good food and in generous quantities, so out of pragmatism, they simply choose to avoid the risky mix.
There you have it. Science and cultural wisdom do not encourage these fancy drinks that have became so popular in most coffee shops across Beirut. Nonetheless, I have a confession to make. I am an espresso drinker, a simple, ‘one-shot’, no milk espresso guy. Therefore, it is easy for me to unleash on these savory and luscious drinks. So let me tone down my accusation and end up with this advice that apply to most treats. Enjoy it but consume with moderation!
Moutassem H.
2) Lactose intolerance / Wikipedia.