The Tyranny of Medical Research and the Body-Police

Modern medical research has done a great deal of obvious good. Life spans have been lengthened in recent decades and people generally enjoy healthier lives as a result of studies in nutrition and diet.

But there is a real trap for some in these continued medical discoveries. Hard science is necessarily committed to a continued quest for better knowledge based upon better research. The results mean that once “proven” assumptions about good or bad can be altered again and again. A good example of this was seen in the recent research evidence that coffee is not nearly as bad for you as was previously assumed.

Manfred Kroger, a retired food scientist from Penn State University, says: “A lot of early research was flawed. Coffee lovers are more likely to do harmful things like smoke and drink alcohol in excess, so coffee was often falsely incriminated.” The health benefits of coffee are not so great that anyone is urging you to up your intake significantly. Pregnant women are still urged to abstain. And large amounts of coffee still appear to present real problems. But, and this is the really good news for many of us, coffee is actually good for you in a number of ways. First, it is rich in antioxidants—those substances that deactivate disease-causing byproducts in the body’s metabolism. Second, coffee appears to be a protective substance. Third, caffeine may in fact be a mild antidepressant. A Harvard study of 80,000 women, done over ten years, found that more than two to three cups per day cut the risk of suicide by one third! In animals this stimulant has been shown to inhibit brain-cell destruction. A study in Hawaii, with 8,000 men, revealed evidence suggesting coffee can prevent the development of Parkinson’s. Furthermore, caffeine releases adrenaline, a reason many athletes have used it in various forms. And in the gall bladder caffeine promotes contractions, a reason some have thought routine coffee, tea and soda (I guess that I am OK with my continued desire for a Diet Pepsi every day) drinkers have fewer gallstones. And the oft repeated idea that coffee dehydrates is simply a myth.

So what’s the point? A simple one really: “Do all things in moderation.” Personally, I would like to shout this good news from every Christian pulpit in America. We need to stop the tyranny, a tyranny that has especially grown up around overly conscientious Christians regarding food and drink, diet and weight-loss. I am not suggesting that we stop caring about our body, which is the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” I am suggesting that we tell the conservative “body-police” in the church to take a hike. They create new rules for ordinary Christians almost monthly. The very research they use to “judge” both themselves and others is often flawed. And the tyranny this creates, especially for young body-conscious female believers, is horrible. I plan to continue to enjoy my white chocolate mocha with skim milk at Caribou Coffee, and I will do it to the glory of God! What about you?

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