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This potentially valuable information about a relation between coffee consumption and the presence of rheumatoid factor1 is difficult to evaluate because of a lack of clarity in definitions. What is meant by “coffee”? Is coffee, caffeinated or decaffeinated? This is an obvious distinction that readers need when considering these findings. It would have been interesting, also, to have had information about other beverage consumption, such as colas or teas, or both. This might or might not have affected or clarified the results, which, currently, have no theoretical underpinnings. However, the information is an exciting start towards understanding factors that contribute to this disabling and prevalent illness.
The surveys were conducted in 1970s. At that time most Finns drank traditional boiled coffee. The use of decaffeinated coffee was exceptional. In the Mini-Finland Health Survey, there was a negative correlation between daily cups of tea and coffee (age and sex adjusted partial r=0.30, p<0.001). However, tea consumption showed no association with the presence of rheumatoid factor (age and sex adjusted odds ratio per one cup of tea = 0.91, 95% confidence interval 0.73 to 1.13) and did not confound the results we reported. Unfortunately, we had no information on the consumption of colas, but according to indirect information on sales of cola beverages the contribution of caffeine from this source was minimal in Finns at that time.
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