Le Café de Balzac

The 19th century French author Honoré de Balzac allegedly drank 50 cups of coffee a day. (It’s in the New Yorker, so it must be true.)

I have a bad reaction to caffeine, something called an ocular migraine, which means I temporarily go blind. I’m not kidding. I once drank a Pepsi, and minutes later, my vision started shimmering on the right side. Then, like a slow moving storm, it moved from the right side of my face to the left, and I was unable to read for about a half hour.

Freaked me out. I would have gone to the hospital, but I went to the Internet to see if I was having a stroke. The symptoms matched that of an ocular migraine. The Web entry said it was caused by stress and caffeine. Since I can’t control stress, I cut out caffeine.

But even if I didn’t have that reaction and could drink caffeine, I would think that 50 cups of coffee a day would kill you, right? (And decaf didn’t exist in the 19th century.)

Compound Interest says otherwise:


So Balzac only had about half a fatal dose of coffee a day. And he died at age 51. I think I see the cause of death.

But six liters of water? Isn’t that drowning? And 13 shots of alcohol? Isn’t that a frat party?


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