Caffeine is consumed in many forms around the world yet questions remain about its health benefits

The World’s Most Popular Drug: Caffeine

CAFFEINE IS CONSUMED IN MANY FORMS AROUND THE WORLD YET QUESTIONS REMAIN ABOUT ITS HEALTH BENEFITS

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Have you had your first cup of coffee yet today? If so then you’ve ingested about 100 mg of caffeine. If you’re on your second or third cup of coffee, you’re close to the recommended upper limit for daily caffeine consumption. For many that leads to a love-hate relationship with all things caffeine. People love the way they feel when they have and hate the way they feel when they don’t.

But is caffeine really that bad for us?

Caffeine has been in our diets since the first cup of tea was sipped in China in 10th century BC. Since then, the history of the world can be traced to the distribution of caffeine-rich tea from Asia, coffee beans from Africa and cocoa from South America. Today caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world.

To help you deal with your caffeine habit, I’ve prepared a Q/A to report on the latest research.

Are there any health benefits to caffeine?

Yes, caffeine is an antioxidant and helps fight the free radicals found in the body that attack healthy cells and cause disease. The anti-inflammatory effects of caffeine also improve immune function and caffeine can help with allergic reactions by its anti-histamine action.

Does caffeine increase the risk for heart disease?

No, several large studies found no link between caffeine and elevated cholesterol levels or increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Caffeine does cause a temporary rise in blood pressure in those who are sensitive to it, but more research is need to determine if it increases the risk for stroke in people who have hypertension.

Can caffeine cause osteoporosis?

No, not if there is adequate calcium in the diet. Consuming more than 700 mg a day may increase calcium losses in urine, but adding one ounce of milk to a cup of coffee will replace these losses.

Is caffeine a diuretic?

Yes, caffeine will increase the need to urinate, but it does not lead to excessive fluid losses. The amount excreted is not greater than the amount of fluid contained in the caffeine-containing beverage consumed.

Is the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee always the same?

No, the amount can differ widely from cup to cup brewed from the same brand and among different brands. Even decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine.

Are there any groups that should limit their intake of caffeine?

Yes, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists pregnant women should have no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, or the amount of caffeine in about 12 ounces of coffee. Women who drink larger amounts than that appear to have an increased risk of miscarriage compared to moderate drinkers and non-drinkers.

Is caffeine safe for children?

Yes, in moderation. Studies suggest that children can consume up to 300 mg of caffeine a day, although some children may be more sensitive than others its stimulant effects. The introduction of energy drinks containing caffeine has made it easier for children to get more than they should.

Are coffee and tea the main sources of caffeine in the diet?

Yes, but other sources include cola beverages, chocolate, energy drinks, over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medicines, and some “diet” pills.

Is caffeine addictive?

Maybe, depending on how you define addictive. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause mild physical dependence if used regularly. If you stop consuming it you may experience withdrawal symptoms including headache, anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. It does not, however, interfere with your physical, social or economic well-being the way additive drugs do.

When did you first experience the effects of caffeine?

New research shows good results when diet drinks are part of overall healthy diet

Can Diet Drinks Be Part of Healthy Diet?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you read the blog here.

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS GOOD RESULTS WHEN DIET DRINKS ARE PART OF OVERALL HEALTHY DIET

Links between the consumption of diet drinks and health problems have been reported in the past, but no smoking gun has ever been found. Now researchers have uncovered the secret weapon. Eating a healthy diet, with or without diet drinks, lowers the risk for chronic disease.

Does this come as a surprise to you? It certainly doesn’t to me. I have always professed that no single food or ingredient, including diet beverages, is responsible for obesity or the diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer that go with it.

Here’s what the latest study found.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at the dietary patterns of more than 4000 Americans who were between the ages of 18 and 30 when the study began in the mid-1980s. Subjects were classified as having a “Prudent” diet made up of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, fish, nuts and seeds or a “Western” diet with higher intakes of fast food, processed food, meat, poultry, pizza, sugar, and snacks.

Over the course of 20 years, 827 participants in the study developed metabolic syndrome. After considering other risk factors, such as body weight and level of exercise, the researchers evaluated the relationship between the use of diet beverages and the two dietary patterns and the risk of metabolic syndrome. This is what they found.

Those who ate a:

  • Prudent diet with no diet drinks had the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Prudent diet with diet drinks had a slightly higher risk (2%) of metabolic syndrome
  • Western diet with diet soda had the highest risk of metabolic syndrome

The researchers concluded that their study was observational and does not prove diet drinks have a negative effect on health. But there’s another way to look at the results. Those eating a Prudent diet were more likely to consume diet drinks than those eating a Western diet, which suggests a strong link between diet drinks and healthier diets.

How would you rate your diet over the past 20 years?

It is never too late to adopt a healthy diet in retirement

A Healthy Diet in Retirement, Does it Matter?

FOLLOW THESE GOALS FOR A HEALTHY DIET IN RETIREMENT

Hypertension, heart disease and diabetes – three preventable diseases that are the result of modern lifestyles. No matter which one you are diagnosed with, medications are immediately prescribed and dietary modifications are recommended. Unfortunately, few people make the needed changes in their diets while it might still do them some good. Instead, they take the pills and hope for the best.

Then by the time they’re ready to retire, there is little that a change in diet can do to reverse the damage from eating too much saturated fat, sodium and sugar. The most they can hope for is the ability to juggle all the overlapping conditions and restrictions.

So what are the dietary goals for those in retirement?

Aging results in changes in normal digestion and absorption, which impact your nutrient requirements, along with the effects of multiple medications and long-standing diseases. That is why most nutrition research does not typically include subjects older than 55 – there aren’t enough “healthy” people in that age group to study.

Consequently, there is no simple diet plan for the over 60 crowd. But there are three important areas to focus on until you can get a thorough nutritional assessment and individualized dietary plan from a registered dietitian.

Nutrient Density

While there is no one diet that fits all, we do know that a more nutrient dense one is important. That means your diet should be made up foods that provide more nutrients in fewer calories because calorie needs go down with age while nutrient requirements increase. Nutrient dense foods include:

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juice
  • Lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans
  • Low fat and fat free milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Whole grains and cereals and the products made from them, like whole wheat bread and pasta

Expand Variety

Meals can easily become repetitious and monotonous, and that’s not a good. Variety is important both within each food group and throughout the year to be sure all of the nutrients you need are available from the foods in which they are naturally found.

It can be as simple as adding something new to your menu each week. Try a different type of apple or a frozen vegetable medley containing edamame (they’re soybeans!). Have cornmeal polenta as a side dish or black beans in your salad.

Ease Up on Extras

There are many things people enjoy eating and drinking that add little nutritional value to their diets, but do add calories. These extras include cake, cookies and candy and the butter, cream cheese and other spreads added to foods. While it is not necessary to give them up entirely, it is important to eat them less often and in smaller portions or to use lower calorie substitutes for them when available.

For example, a slice of peach pie can be replaced with a dish of sliced peaches (fresh, frozen or canned in unsweetened juice) topped with 2 crushed ginger snaps as a way how to have your pie and eat it, too!

Are you ready to change your eating habits for the better?