Forced to drink coffee every day until he died

In Sweden, there have been several attempts to ban coffee in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Swedish King Gustav III (1746-1792) was convinced that coffee was a deadly poison. He had a medical experiment to prove this. A prisoner sentenced to death was forced to drink coffee every day until he died.

During the 18th century, coffee became fashionable in finer circles. But there were also many including King Gustav III himself, who saw the black liquid as a threat to public health. Coffee was seen as a slow suicide.

To clarify the harmful effects of coffee drinking, the king decided to conduct a medical experiment. Two prisoners sentenced to death had to choose between the gallows or to serve as guinea pigs. Unsurprisingly, they agreed to participate in the experiment.

One prisoner was forced to drink coffee every day until he died and the other prisoner to drink tea. The experiment would continue under the supervision of two doctors until the deaths of the prisoners. The king’s idea was to show how coffee shortened human life. Gustav III was completely convinced that the coffee drinker would soon die of severe caffeine pain.

The king died before the prisoners

So the two prisoners sat in their respective cells and drank cup after cup of coffee and tea day after day. The weeks became months and the months became years. Then one of the doctors died. The prisoners were forced to continue drinking, until suddenly the other doctor also died. Then King Gustav himself died, shot during a masquerade ball at the Stockholm Opera on March 29, 1792. The experiment was not ended by the death of the king. It continued until the tea drinker finally died at the respectable age of 83 years.

There is no information on how or when the coffee drinker died. Maybe he still is alive. What is certain, however, is that the bad reputation of coffee did not improve despite the results of the royal experiment. Even today, coffee is considered by many to be a dangerous drug. In 1991, coffee was placed on the World Health Organization’s list of “possibly carcinogenic” dietary factors and gained a really bad reputation. But the coffee has since then been removed from the list. However, there is a warning against drinking very hot coffee (or other drink) as the temperature itself is likely to increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

More information about the coffee experiment.

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