If you’re enjoying your Monday morning cup of coffee, take a moment to appreciate it for its deliciousness and the good it may be doing your body.
As I wrote in the “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column a couple of weeks ago, recent research has found that coffee’s potential health benefits may outweigh any health risks it might pose. Coffee consumption may help ward off Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and a score of other conditions.
That growing list may now include endometrial cancer: A study published last week in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research) found that coffee consumption may reduce women’s risk of developing endometrial cancer.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus. An estimated 46,470 women will be diagnosed in the United States in 2011, and an estimated 8,120 deaths will result from the disease.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data for 67,470 women taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1980. Over 26 years, 627 cases of endometrial cancer occurred among study participants.
The data showed that drinking four or more cups of coffee daily reduced risk of endometrial cancer by 25 percent compared to drinking less than a cup a day. The association held true for decaffeinated coffee, though the link was less robust — perhaps because only a tiny fraction of the women in the study reported drinking decaf. No association was found between drinking caffeinated tea and endometrial cancer risk.
Coffee is believed to alter the way estrogen and insulin, both of which influence our risk of chronic disease, work in our bodies.
The study notes that regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight are the best defenses against endometrial cancer. Still, adding coffee to the mix could potentially help keep women healthy. Unless, that is, they add cream and sugar to their coffee, in which case the added calories and fat might undo any good the coffee might offer, the authors suggest.
WAILUKU – Maui County Council members heard from farmers this week asking them to take more time before making changes to the county’s agricultural property tax laws.
The council Budget and Finance Committee met Tuesday to discuss a proposal that would carve out the land under a home on agricultural property and require it to be taxed in the same way as any other residential lot. Council members supporting the measure said it would make the property tax system more fair and equal for all residents.
But many farmers said they were concerned about any changes that would likely increase what they pay in property taxes.
“We have a tax equity issue,” said Darren Strand, president of the Maui County Farm Bureau and Haliimaile Pineapple Co. “As a business operator, that’s not my issue. My issue is, any increase in taxes is going to hurt my bottom line.”
He echoed others in calling for more review.
“There just hasn’t been enough time for us to process (this) and really get the information out,” he said.
Council members agreed, deciding to defer discussion of the issue and schedule nighttime meetings in the community before taking action.
“There’s a lot of concern out there, and I’d like to take a little extra time to have people get their questions answered,” said Council Member Mike White, who introduced the legislation and has spearheaded discussion of disparities in the agricultural property tax system.
Under White’s proposal, the county would tax the “house lot” on agricultural property based on its fair market value, as if it were a stand-alone lot.
That would be a significant change from the current system, in which the county estimates the value of the house lot only as a percentage of what the entire property is worth.
The change would likely increase property taxes on a number of agricultural house lots, which under the current system often pay less in taxes than lots of the same size in residential areas.
“It gets back to a fairness issue,” White said. Continue reading
A team of international researchers has found that levels of radioactive material in farmland in parts of northeastern Japan exceed safety standards.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that Fukushima prefecture was “highly contaminated” after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The level of radioactive material found in neighboring prefectures, such as Miyagi, Tochigi and Ibaraki, was lower but could still pose a threat to food production in some areas, the researchers said.
The study, led by Teppei Yasunari of the Universities Space Research Assn. in Maryland, looked at levels of cesium-137, which is of particular concern because it takes decades to decay.
The researchers used daily measurements collected in most prefectures along with computer-generated models of particle dispersion based on weather patterns to estimate the level of contamination across Japan.
The legal limit in Japan for concentrations of cesium-137 and cesium-134 in farm soil is 5,000 becquerels per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Cesium-137 makes up about half of the total for the concentrations, which are produced together.
The study found that the level of contamination in east Fukushima exceeded the safety limits. Results from neighboring prefectures were within the legal limits, but the researchers advised local authorities to conduct supplementary soil sampling.
WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved permits Tuesday for Auwahi Wind Energy to build and operate eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
Two dozen people testified on the proposed special use and special management area permits, and none were opposed to the project, according to planner Ann Cua. Some testifiers shared concerns about traffic, safety and visual impacts of the wind farm.
The project would have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts, which would be enough power to supply electricity to 10,000 homes. The $140 million project’s infrastructure includes an energy storage system; a 9-mile, 34.5-kilovolt power line; an interconnection substation; a microwave communication tower; and a construction access road. Each generator pad would require about 2.4 acres of cleared area, while the entire project would cover 1,466 acres, almost entirely on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
The project aims to provide power for Maui island only. It is not part of the “Big Wind” project, which calls for wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to provide power to Oahu via an underwater cable.
Commission members attached conditions to Auwahi’s permits, including one that requires Auwahi Wind, a division of Sempra, to work with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Ka Ohana O Kahikinui Inc. to develop a community benefits package. The groups would develop a plan and sign a memorandum of agreement addressing the roadway improvement and other needs of the Kahikinui homestead community.
The project area contains more than 1,100 archaeological features on 174 sites, and the developer has designed the turbines and power lines to avoid culturally sensitive burials and heiau. Continue reading
lightning strike at a geothermal well in Pahoa today temporarily shut down operations and caused a miniscule release of hydrogen sulfide, Hawaii island firefighters said.
A resident in the Lani Puna subdivision reported the smell of hydrogen sulfide — a poisonous, flammable gas that smells like rotten eggs — about 1:35 p.m., firefighters said. The subdivision is west of Puna Geothermal Venture, a power plant that creates energy by tapping volcanic heat.
Firefighters arrived at the scene and found a power plant representative taking air readings of 62 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide. Firefighters took their own readings and recorded less than 0 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide, well below the evacuation level of 10 parts per million, firefighters said.
A spokesperson for the power plant told firefighters that a lightning strike caused the shut down at the power plant and a small release of hydrogen sulfide, firefighters said. Power was restored and the plant’s operations were returned to normal.
Indonesia’s self-proclaimed “King of Luwak”, Gunawan Supriadi, is having a hard time keeping up with demand for the beans excreted by his stable of pampered civet “cats”.
And he’s not alone. Demand for coffee brewed with beans plucked from the dung of the furry, weasel-like creatures — known locally as luwaks — is surging among well-healed connoisseurs around the world, exporters say.
About 40 civets at Supriadi’s plantation in West Lampung district, Sumatra, provide the intestinal machinery for his Raja Luwak (King of Luwak) brand of bean. Lampung is the undisputed capital of luwak coffee.
“My target is to have 150 civets soon because I have to meet the surge in demand,” Supriadi said.
“In 2008, I gathered about 50 kilograms of luwak beans and sold them to local distributors. In 2009, I sold 300 kilograms. In 2010, I sold 1.2 tonnes.”
The “golden droppings” of the luwak, or Asian palm civet, fetch up to $800 for two pounds in countries like the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
It’s another story altogether at retail level. Single cups of the world’s most expensive coffee have been known to sell for almost $100 in specialty outlets in London.
The civets play two roles. Firstly, they tend to choose the best berries to digest. Experts say wild civets are the most discerning, but their droppings are also the most difficult to harvest.
Having nibbled off the thin outer layer of fruit, the civets put their digestive juices to work. The enzymes penetrate the beans — usually arabica in Sumatra — and change their chemical balance in subtle ways.
The end product, after a good wash and light roasting, lacks the bitterness of ordinary coffee and has a unique, soft flavour.
“If luwak coffee is a car, then it must be a Rolls-Royce,” Supriadi said. Continue reading