Friday, January 20, 2006


Many foods like cheese and meat, as well as salt flavored condiments such as table salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG), generally contain large amounts of sodium. Sodium is one of the body's major minerals. It is found primarily in the body's extracellular compartment and in the fluids within the vascular compartments. The rest is stored within the genes. Along with potassium, the primary intracellular mineral, sodium helps to regulate the cell's water balance. Water tends to accumulate in areas where sodium collects. Thus, an overabundance of sodium in relationship to the body's potassium levels can lead to edema, bloating, and even some cases of high blood pressure.
During the active reproductive years, ingesting too much salt can worsen premenstrual bloating, fluid retention, and breast tenderness during the week or two prior to the onset of menstruation. It can also worsen the dull aching pain that can accompany menstrual cramps at the beginning of the menstrual period. With the onset of menopause, excess sodium intake is a risk factor for many other health problems like cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Women at high risk for developing these problems should certainly curtail their sodium intake.Bloating and fluid retention are very common in menopausal women. Fluid retention often adds to the excess pounds that can be so irksome; many women complain that they gain 10 to 15 pounds after menopause and that the weight is very difficult to lose, even with dieting and exercise. Of even greater concern is the fact that excess sodium is a risk factor for osteoporosis, since it accelerates calcium loss from the body.
Besides regular table salt, MSG, another sodium containing flavor enhancer, has been implicated in health problems. MSG is often used in food preparation in Chinese restaurants. It is also a common ingredient in many commercial seasonings, meats, condiments, and oven baked goods. Besides causing headaches and anxiety episodes, this chemical seems to worsen food cravings and food addictions.
Unfortunately, avoiding salt and MSG in the American diet, like sugar, takes some work because it is so prevalent. In fact, salt and sugar are often found together in large amounts in frozen, canned, cured, and processed foods. Many of us eat so much salt (far beyond the recommended 2000 mg or one teaspoon per day) that our palates have become jaded. Many people feel that food tastes too bland without the addition of salt. Fast foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, pizza, and tacos are loaded with salt and saturated fats. Common processed foods such as soups, potato chips, cheese, olives, pickles, salad dressings, and catsup (to name only a few) are also heavily laden with salt. One frozen food entree can contribute as much as one half teaspoon of salt to your daily intake. And if this was not bad enough, many people use the salt shaker liberally in their own cooking and seasoning.
Fortunately, there are many other seasoning options available that are much better for your health. For flavoring, use garlic, basil, oregano, and other herbs. The fresh foods that we eat such as vegetables, grains, legumes, and meat contain all the salt we need, so added table salt isn't necessary. As with sugar, it is important that you read the labels before you buy bottled, canned, or frozen food. Don't buy a product if salt is listed as a main ingredient (near the top of the label). Many brands in the health food stores and supermarkets now distribute foods labeled "no salt added" or "reduced salt.” Be sure to buy these rather than the high-salt foods. If you are sensitive to MSG, be sure to check labels of bottled salad dressings and sauces to make sure that it is not an ingredient. Also, eat at Chinese restaurants that advertise "No MSG" in their ads or in their windows. Many restaurants are aware of the reactions that people have to MSG, so they forego using it in food preparation. Be knowledgeable about the salt substitutes available in natural food stores like miso (flavored soy paste of Japanese origin) or Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids. These and other foods impart a salty taste with less sodium. Also, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables since they are excellent sources of potassium and other essential nutrients. Potassium helps balance the sodium in the body and regulate the blood pressure to keep it at normal levels.

Nutritional Impact of Soft Drinks

Soft Drinks Undermining Americans’ HealthCaffeine vs. DeCaf.The majority of people who drink colas can't tell whether a soda contains caffeine or not, according to a new Johns Hopkins study. "This stands in sharp contrast to the claim some soft drink manufacturers make that they add caffeine purely for taste," says psychopharmacologist Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., who directed the research.
In a study of 25 adult cola drinkers, the scientists found that only 8 percent of them could detect caffeine in cola at a concentration of 0.1 milligram per milliliter, the concentration in Coca-Cola Classic or Pepsi. The rest of the group couldn't taste the difference between caffeine-containing and caffeine-free cola until caffeine levels were raised to much higher levels beyond those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The report appears in this month's Archives of Family Medicine."I'd like to see the soft drink industry come out of denial about the role of caffeine in their products," says Griffiths. "They're adding a mildly addictive, mood-altering drug, one which surely accounts for the fact that people drink far more sodas with caffeine than without." About 70 percent of all soft drinks in this country contain caffeine, he adds. The caffeine-free versions of Coca-Cola Classic and Pepsi, the two most popular soft drinks, make up only 5 percent of sales of those sodas.
"Given that sodas are aggressively marketed to kids, manufacturers should openly say why the caffeine is there. We should tell what the caffeine dose is. It's a case of knowing what you're getting and why.
"The marketing parallels between nicotine and caffeine are pretty stunning," says Griffiths. "Both are psychoactive drugs. Until recently, cigarette companies denied that nicotine is addicting and said it was added merely as a flavor enhancer for cigarettes. The same is being said for caffeine." In 1998, Americans guzzled 15 billion gallons of sodas, the equivalent of 585 cans for every man, woman and child. Consumption of soft drinks has more than doubled since 1975 and more sodas are consumed than water, says Griffiths. Soft drinks also represent the single largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet, according to sources cited in the study, and increased soda drinking in children displaces eating more nutritious foods, possibly increasing tooth decay, obesity and bone fracture.
"We know adults and children can become physiologically and psychologically dependent on caffeinated soft drinks, experiencing a withdrawal syndrome if they stop," says Griffiths. Earlier research at Hopkins shows that withdrawal symptoms typically include headache and lethargy, and last a day or two.
"Most adults can become informed about, and cope with, withdrawal," says Griffiths."But it is more problematic in children who are less well-informed and whose soft drink consumption may be sporadic. Then children may go in and out of withdrawal and have erratic periods of suboptimal feelings that could affect the way they function."In the study, the scientists first made sure that subjects could distinguish Diet Coke from regular Coca-Cola a sign that they had reasonable taste sensitivity. Then, during the actual test sessions, subjects sipped from 50 cups of soda, a pair at a time, to see if they could distinguish between caffeine-free Coke and that with added caffeine. Subjects were paid $10 per session and 25 cents for each correct answer. The first five trials in each session were "warm-up" trials, in which participants were told what they were drinking.

"We tried hard to design this study so it would be a fair test of whether caffeine affects cola taste," says Griffiths. The scientists used cola from a single production batch for each study session; subjects were required to rinse their mouths with water after tasting each sample. The "warm up" trials were added to heighten the ability to taste a difference. Subjects were chosen in part because they were regular cola drinkers who believed they preferred caffeinated colas because of their taste. That fact and the money reward helped ensure that they were motivated to participate, says Griffiths.
Caffeine has long been added to colas, he adds. Early advertisements played up its value as a stimulant until about 1920, when the U.S. government questioned its use in soft drinks. "The objections, however, were countered by industry," says Griffiths, "and sodas continued to contain caffeine. In 1981, the FDA again reviewed addition of caffeine to soft drinks to see if they should maintain their GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status.
"Nobody knew much then about caffeine's behavioral or mood-altering effects at low doses. Industry scientists again countered queries, this time with studies that appeared to show how important caffeine was to flavor.
"Since then, though, the picture has changed," says Griffiths. "Soft drink consumption has gone through the roof. There's marketing of larger volumes of soda drinks like the Big Gulp, and industry has now started targeting advertising to children."Ellen M. Vernotica, Ph.D., was a co-researcher in this study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
Label Caffeine Content of Foods, Scientists Tell FDAHealth Activists Say Caffeine Causes More Than a 'Buzz'.Caffeine may cause miscarriages, insomnia, and other problems, according to more than 40 scientific studies outlined in a 70-page petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI and dozens of health advocates are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require the caffeine content of foods to be declared on labels."Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., "and consumers have a right to know how much caffeine various foods contain. Knowing the caffeine content is important to many people -- especially women who are or might become pregnant -- who might want to limit or avoid caffeine."
The amount of caffeine varies widely among brands. For instance, a cup of Dannon Coffee Yogurt has as much caffeine as a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, while a Dannon Light Cappuccino Yogurt has no caffeine. Sunkist Orange Soda has more caffeine than a Pepsi, while Minute Maid Orange Soda has none. A cup of Starbuck's Coffee Ice Cream has as much caffeine as half a cup of instant coffee, while some other brands are virtually caffeine free.
"Americans should be mindful about their caffeine consumption. Drinking the caffeine equivalent of several cups of coffee a day can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Ceasing the consumption of caffeine often leads to withdrawal symptoms, such as headache and fatigue," said Roland Griffiths, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Caffeine is a mildly addictive drug, and parents might wish to limit their children's consumption of it."
Spurred by legal action by CSPI in the 1970s, the FDA issued an advisory in 1981 warning that "Pregnant women should avoid caffeine-containing foods and drugs, if possible, or consume them only sparingly." The FDA still maintains that advisory as its official policy."Unfortunately, food labels do not provide women with the information they need to put the FDA's advice into practice," said Patricia Lieberman, CSPI senior science policy fellow."Caffeine is present in an increasing variety of coffee and tea beverages, soft drinks, caffeinated waters, ice creams, and yogurts. It's usually impossible for consumers to estimate caffeine content based on a product's name or other label information."
Joining CSPI in support of the petition were 34 scientists and ten health and consumer groups. The supporters include prominent scientists from Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Duke, University of Michigan, University of California (Berkeley), and other universities, as well as the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors, National Women's Health Network, Boston Women's Health Book Collective, and Society for Nutrition Education. John Hughes, of the University of Vermont's department of psychiatry, organized a coalition of scientists concerned about caffeine to ask the FDA to require caffeine labeling.
Separately, the American Medical Association recently called on the FDA to require caffeine-content labeling of foods that contain added caffeine."Consumers may not realize that some of their health problems could be due to caffeine," said Lieberman. "For instance, caffeine leads to increased risk of infertility, miscarriage, and impaired fetal growth. Caffeine also affects bone health, exacerbating the low calcium intake of women and teenagers and increasing the risk of osteoporosis."
Because caffeine is an added ingredient in soft drinks and caffeinated water, caffeine must be included in ingredient lists. But the labels do not have to disclose how much caffeine those foods contain. Neither the presence nor amount of caffeine is indicated on most labels of tea, coffee, and foods made with those beverages, such as ice cream and yogurt. Caffeine levels can vary widely:Ben & Jerry's No Fat Coffee Fudge Frozen Yogurt has 85 mg of caffeine per cup -- the amount in five ounces of coffee -- while Healthy Choice's Cappuccino Mocha Fudge Low-Fat Ice Cream has only 8 mg per cup.
The caffeine content of 12-ounce soft drinks varies from Josta (58 mg), Mountain Dew (55 mg), Surge (51 mg), Coca-Cola (45 mg), Sunkist Orange Soda (40 mg), and Barqs Root Beer (23 mg), to none in Minute Maid Orange Soda or Mug Root Beer.
An 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains 135 mg of caffeine, while a cup of instant coffee contains 95 mg. General Foods International Coffees range from 26 to 102 mg per cup."Many children," Lieberman said, "consume large quantities of empty-calorie soft drinks and other caffeinated beverages in place of fruit juice, which may help reduce the risk of cancer, or 1% or skim milk, which may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that teenage boys drink twice as much soda as milk. Teenage girls drink 50 percent more soda than milk."
"This all comes down to the consumer's right to know," said Lisa Cox, program and policies director at the National Women's Health Network. "When a food contains an ingredient linked to health problems, labels should disclose to shoppers the amount of that ingredient."CSPI's petition also asks the FDA to study the effects of caffeine on human health to determine whether it should require warning labels or other measures to protect the public.
1. What is it and where does it come from?Caffeine is an alkaloid; of which there are numerous compounds such as the methylxanthines, with three distinguished compounds: caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, found in guarana, kola nuts, coffee, tea, cocoa beans, mate and other plants. These compounds have different biochemical effects, and are present in different ratios in the different plant sources.

Caffeine is the most popular drug on the globe. It is a powerful stimulant to the Central Nervous System. Moderate use seems to be desireable by all, male and female; although excessive use can produce undesireable effects. Caffeine was discovered in 1820. In 1838, it was found that theine, a substance in tea, was identical to caffeine. Six or so caffeine containing plants are used more worldwide as a beverage than any other plants and herbal materials put together. The many caffeinated natural plants are are: Coffee, Tea, Kola, Cocoa, and Guarana.
2. What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?Caffeine is a power and energy accelerant! It's perfect to super energize your body for powerful workouts. This fast-acting substance delivers the right molecular structure to your energy systems for maximum energy and power output. Caffeine much like Ephedra acts to increase mental alertness and neurologically provide the surge you need to maximize your training. Not just a stimulant, this powerful substance reaches deep into the muscle cell to provide lasting power and delaying the onset of muscle fatigue. You can provide yourself with the intracellular high-octane fuel for optimum energy system efficiency straight from us at!
So how does caffeine work to provide you with maximum energy support and increased endurance? Caffeine affects the CNS causing more alertness and allowing for more intense focus. The chemical structure of caffeine is very similar to that of adenine (a component of ATP, DNA, and cyclic AMP). Only the substituents are different. This helps explain caffeine's stimulating effects. It is really close to being an energy metabolite in and of itself! Because of the structural similarities, caffeine can slip right into adenosine receptors, keeping cyclic AMP active rather than it being broken down. When cyclic AMP breaks down, the body's energy supply decreases. Because caffeine fools the body into using enzymes to break it down instead, the cyclic AMP supply remains higher for longer. I bet you always wanted to know that.
Because of its diolated blood vessel restricting properties, it is used to treat migraines, through the reduction of pain. It increases the potency of aspirin or other analgestics and can releive asthma attacks by widening the bronchial airways. The majority of caffeine is produced in decaffeinating coffee.
3. Who needs it and are there any symptoms of deficiency?Well, this is an interesting question. Nobody really needs caffeine, but I once read an article that said if all of America were to stop drinking coffee or caffeine-containing soft drinks/beverages, productivity would fall by 70%. So, anyone who wants more alertness and a mental/physical boost could use a little caffeine safely. Anyone who doesn't want to drink coffee or soda could easily supplement their diets with an energy-enhancing supplement that contains caffeine. Deficiency is not an associated problem with caffeine because it is not an essential nutrient.
4. How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?Nonpregnant adults should limit their intake to about 250mg per day. Pregnant women should be even more conservative with their intake. Moderation in all caffeine containing products is the basic rule of thumb for the positive attributes without the undesirable effects of taking too much.
Don't drink, smoke, or do drugs? Think you've got no vices? Think again. If you drink coffee, tea, cola or indulge in the occasional piece of chocolate, then you're using a drug. Believe it or not, caffeine has the same pharmacological effects on the body as many of the substances we associate with doing harm. Of course, coffee is so well integrated into our culinary culture that we barely give its health effects a second thought.
Apart from being highly addictive and causing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if we stop drinking it suddenly, research shows that even a little bit of coffee may reduce fertility by damaging sperm. It's also bad news if you're pregnant. Caffeine seems to affect the amount of time the baby spends resting, which could lead to abnormal behavior later on.But every cloud has a silver lining. Ironically, caffeine is being administered to pre-term babies to help them breathe. It also appears to increase alertness and improve performance under some circumstances.To drink or not to drink? That is the question . . .
Ten things you didn’t know1. Caffeine ConsumptionGlobal consumption has been estimated to be 120,000 tonnes per annum. This is the approximate equivalent of one caffeine-containing beverage per day for each of the planet's 5 billion plus inhabitants. So, caffeine is almost certainly the most widely consumed psycho-active substance in the world.As a beverage the worldwide consumption of tea is surpassed only by water.
2. Where Did Caffeine Come From?The coffee "tree" is indigenous to Ethiopia, but its cultivation and use as a beverage stem largely from Arabia. In Arabic it was referred to as gahwah, the poetic term for wine. The Turkish equivalent is kahveh, which became cafe in French and kaffee in German.
Apparently the Ethiopians mixed crushed dried coffee beans with fat which they rolled into balls and used as food on journeys. By the early 16th century the beverage made from infusing ground roasted beans was well-established in the Islamic world, although a fundamentalist element felt that coffee was an intoxicant and it was banned for a time in several places.
Coffee shops sprang up throughout Europe - coffee was the fashionable drug of the 17th and 18th centuries; its delights, and the cravings for it, were the subject of J.S. Bach's "The Coffee Cantata.”
The British were the first to tax coffee; in 1660 a duty of 4 pence per gallon was imposed. The popularity of coffee lead to anti-coffee petitions such as "What a curse it is that ordinary working men should sit the whole day in coffee houses simply to chatter about politics, while their unhappy children are wailing at home for lack of bread!"
It's been suggested that America owes its present day coffee habits to the famous Boston "tea-party" of 1773. As a protest against oppression and excessive taxes, citizens of Boston boarded British ships moored in the Harbour and tipped their cargoes of tea overboard. Since that time, the United States has become the major coffee-consuming nation of the world.
3. How Much Caffeine Is In Different Beverages And Food?It's usually presumed that a regular cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine but it may range between 40 and 176 mg and the mean is closer to 85mg. There's probably less caffeine in a cup of tea - one study showed a median of 27mg per cup with a range of 8 to 91 mg. An ounce of sweet chocolate may contain between 75 and 150mg of combined methylxanthines and a cup of chocolate or chocolate milk may contain 150-300mg.
The principal dietary sources of caffeine are overwhelmingly coffee and tea. Coffee accounts for some 54 per cent of ingested caffeine, while tea accounts for some 43 per cent. The remaining 3% consists mostly of caffeine ingested in the form of cocoa and chocolate products, various fabricated soft drinks and mate (a tea drunk especially in South America).
In Australia a 375ml can of Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola contains about 40mg of caffeine. Regulations allow a maximum of 145mg of caffeine per kilogram of cola-type drink (54.5mg per 375ml can). "Jolt" Cola - said to have "twice the caffeine" - actually contains the permissible legal limit of around 54mg per bottle.
In the USA, the permissible limit of caffeine in cola drinks and other carbonated beverages is 200mg per litre. The US drinks also have higher levels of sugar. Caffeine's bitter taste acts as a flavoring agent to counteract the sweetness of the sugar.
4. What Caffeine Gets Up To In The BodyCaffeine is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream from the gastro-intestinal tract. It reaches maximum concentration within about an one hour. The blood distributes it throughout the body. It even manages to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
The half life of caffeine in the human body varies between 3 to 7 hours. Throughout the body it increases metabolic rate by around 10%. Females metabolize caffeine 20-30% more quickly than males. However, it will take women on "the pill" twice as long to metabolize caffeine as women who are ovulating.
Early experiments showed that low concentrations of caffeine may produce small decreases in heart rate, whereas higher concentrations may make the heart beat abnormally fast.In the brain it constricts the cerebral blood vessels. If you're used to drinking several cups of coffee a day but then you quit, those blood vessels will dilate, maybe enough to give you a powerful headache. It's one of the best known withdrawal symptoms.
Many people know that caffeine is a strong diuretic - it makes you urinate more than usual. Apparently this is due to increasing the blood flow through the kidneys.It can produce insomnia - delaying the onset of sleep and reducing total sleeping time. It has a small effect on respiration by increasing blood flow through the lungs and increasing the supply of air by relaxing bronchiolar and alveolar smooth muscle. That's why it's proving effective in treating the breathing problems of some prematurely born infants.
Some people experience tremors after drinking coffee and tea. That's thought to be due to over-activation of the central nervous system.
5. Sobering Thoughts About Caffeine"And I'd better have a big cup of extra strong black coffee to get me past the breathalyser."Unfortunately, this is one of the most enduring myths about caffeine. True, it may manage to puncture that aura of numbness and make you feel a little sharper but it's no better at sobering you up and lowering your blood alcohol level than a glass of water.
On the other hand caffeine is a good friend the morning after. Alcohol can give you a thumping headache by enlarging cranial blood vessels. Caffeine constricts them and so may bring some relief from the hangover blues. That's why it's an ingredient in some over-the-counter pain killers.
6. How Caffeine Disturbs Your SleepIf you value a good night's sleep then tea or coffee at bedtime probably isn't a good idea. Caffeine lengthens the time it takes to fall asleep, reducing your total sleeping time. But almost unique among drugs, it doesn't alter the normal stages of sleep. That's why it's better to use caffeine to stay awake than other substances like speed.
7. Caffeine, Conception and BabiesOne recent report from the US revealed that women who drink in excess of one cup of coffee every day are only half as likely to conceive as those who drink less than a cup a day.The odds are considerably worse if women drink more than two and a half cups a day. Then they are nearly 5 times less likely to conceive as women who drink no coffee at all.Because there's not been as much research on caffeine as there has on nicotine and alcohol, this drug's effects on human development are not yet known. However a number of studies have shown that as little as 2 or 3 cups of brewed coffee every day during pregnancy can result in lowered infant birth weight.Other studies have claimed that caffeine consumption during pregnancy is associated with prematurity, poorer reflexes and neuromuscular development.It also appears that heavy caffeine use can affect a newborn baby.When doctors ask mothers if they have been taking drugs they will think of drugs like heroin but they will not necessarily think of caffeine - it's a social drink, not a drug to them. Because caffeine is so widely used many people drink quite large quantities and don't realise that they have taken something potentially harmful to the baby. And this doesn't apply just to coffee and tea. Some pregnant women drink large amounts of cola beverages which also contain significant levels of caffeine.
Caffeine gets across the placenta very easily and if the mother continues to ingest her coffee or caffeine-containing beverage the fetus will end up having as much caffeine as the mother. If the mother stops drinking then within 24 hours the fetus may experience withdrawal symptoms. The same thing may happen immediately after birth when the baby is suddenly cut off from the maternal supply of caffeine, although it should be pointed out that this isn't common. The withdrawal from caffeine has been described as similar to what is seen in babies born to heroin addicts. These babies will cry, they don't sleep, they are agitated and restless, they wriggle and abrade the skin on their hands and knees, and they sweat.
There's a suggestion that such withdrawal "dysfunction" may be a contributing factor in infant disorders like neonatal apnoea (where the baby "forgets" to breathe properly) and sudden infant death syndrome. (For further information see "A Guide to Reproduction: Social Issues And Human Concerns" by Dr Irina Pollard, Cambridge University Press, 1994).
8. Caffeine And Muscle FatigueA Canadian researcher, Prof Howard Green, has carried out experiments looking at the role of caffeine in helping to overcome muscle fatigue in the quadriceps (thigh) muscles.Green is from the University of Waterloo and in 1995 visited Cumberland College, part of the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences.
In his Canadian experiments, muscle fatigue was induced electrically and then caffeine tablets were taken which were the equivalent of 8-10 cups of coffee. Within an hour the effect of reducing fatigue could be noticed. It probably does this by making more calcium available to the muscles.Professor Green cautions that his experiment only showed effects of caffeine after fatigue. He doesn't know what happens if you take it before exercising - whether or not it might help prevent muscle fatigue. That's a question he hopes to answer soon.
In whole body exercise caffeine can increase the performance of muscles. The theory is that it does this by making more fatty acids available to the muscles than usual and that delays depletion of glygocen reserves. It's known that depletion of glycogen from the muscles is tied in with fatigue. This kind of benefit should be relevant to endurance events such as running and cycling. But you may need to drink the equivalent of 8/9 cups of coffee to feel the effect!!
9. Does Caffeine Make You Mentally More Alert?Too much caffeine may not be good for complex reasoning tasks, but it can improve mental speed-related tasks. These are some of the results of research by Dr Paula Mitchell, now working at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
In 1989 Paula carried out a study which looked at 3 groups of volunteers (around 8 people in each group) divided into low, moderate and high caffeine users. The volunteers visited the lab 8 times at different times of day and night (7am, 1pm, 7pm and 1am). Before the tests began they swallowed either a caffeine capsule or a placebo capsule. In the lab they were given a series of performance tests covering short term memory, mental arithmetic, verbal reasoning (which is like logic), and a serial search task (which is a measure of vigilance).
Caffeine actually improved performance in more simple mental tasks like searching for one particular letter in a string of printed letters. Mental speed is the critical thing in this test.Caffeine improved performance best at the 7am testing time - when the body's 24 hour rhythm of arousal is at its lowest.By contrast Mitchell found that the high-caffeine user group didn't perform as well as the others on more complex tasks such as verbal reasoning.
10. Caffeine And Personality DifferencesRecent research in Melbourne suggests that caffeine consumption may be tied in with personality differences including mood, or whether a person is a night owl or a lark (early morning person).As the result of a questionnaire Dr Paula Mitchell found that so-called "night owls" or extreme evening people had much higher levels of caffeine usage than "larks" or extreme morning people. (Extreme evening people and extreme morning people each account for about 10% of the population). The evening people also scored higher on both the extroversion scale and the impulsivity, risk-taking scale. They typically find it difficult to get up in the morning and give themselves big hits of caffeine to wake themselves up. (It's quite possible they are actually suffering from caffeine withdrawal. In other words if they hadn't been drinking coffee the night before they may not have felt like this in the morning.)
Dr Mitchell also says there may be a link between extrovert behaviour and higher caffeine usage.Caffeine seems to disrupt the body clock rhythms of extreme morning people. By contast the rhythms of the evening types are disturbed by the absence of caffeine. Dr Mitchell believes evening people use caffeine to keep their rhythms regular.One of the strongest findings was that if morning people had caffeine after about 10am, their mood went down quite dramatically. This could be because caffeine has disrupted their underlying rhythms.
Caffeine's Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound StressA study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center shows that caffeine taken in the morning has effects on the body that persist until bedtime and amplifies stress consistently throughout the day. These results show for the first time that the effects of caffeine last considerably longer than originally thought, said the scientists, and that caffeine exaggerates stress in people who consume it every day.The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, appears in the July/August 2002 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
"The effects of coffee drinking are long-lasting and exaggerate the stress response both in terms of the body's physiological response in blood pressure elevations and stress hormone levels, but it also magnifies a person's perception of stress," said James D. Lane, Ph.D., associate research professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke and lead author of the study. "People haven't really accepted the fact that there could be a health downside to caffeine consumption, but our evidence – and that of other studies – shows that this downside exists and people should be aware of it in order to make the best possible health choices." The study also showed that while caffeine increases blood pressure and heart rate, it also amplifies those effects at the times when participants report higher levels of stress during their day, said Lane. The caffeine appears to compound the effects of stress both psychologically in terms of perceived stress levels and physiologically in terms of elevated blood pressures and stress hormone levels -- as if the stressor is actually of greater magnitude, he said.
"The caffeine we drink enhances the effects of the stresses we experience, so if we have a stressful job, drinking coffee makes our body respond more to the ordinary stresses we experience," he said. "The combination of stress and caffeine has a multiplying, or synergistically negative effect.
"Everyone accepts that stress can be unhealthy. Our results suggest that drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks can make stress even more unhealthy."The researchers noted that while habitual coffee drinkers might be expected to demonstrate tolerance to the effects of caffeine, they still showed significant responses to the drug."Our findings indicate that eliminating coffee and other caffeinated beverages from the diet could be a helpful way to decrease blood pressure and other stress reactions," said Lane. "I think that people who feel 'stressed out' should at least consider quitting caffeine to see if they feel better. Quitting caffeine could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure, just as diet and exercise can help keep blood pressure under control."
The researchers said that despite the perceived safety of overwhelmingly popular caffeinated beverages such as coffee, the drug does show short-term negative health effects that, if continued over a period of years, could increase risk of heart attack and stroke."While today's cup of coffee might not, by itself, cause you much harm, the cumulative effects of drinking it day after day over a lifetime could really be unhealthy," Lane concluded.Other authors on the study are Carl Pieper, DrPH, Barbara Phillips-Bute, Ph.D., John Bryant, Ph.D., and Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., all of Duke.
Teens are Consuming Twice as Much ‘Liquid Candy’ as MilkTeenage boys and girls drink twice as much soda pop as milk, whereas 20 years ago they drank nearly twice as much milk as soda. That’s one key finding from a new report published today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), publisher of the Nutrition Action Healthletter.
According to the report, "Liquid Candy," teens drink great quantities of soda. CSPI reported that government data reveal that the average 12- to 19-year-old male who consumes soda pop drinks more than two cans per day, while the average female consumes 1¾ cans a day.At a press conference in Washington, D.C., the nonprofit CSPI displayed the 868 cans of soda pop that the average 12- to 19-year male soda drinker drinks annually.
CSPI’s new analyses of 13- to 18-year-olds found that five percent of male soft-drink drinkers down about five or more cans a day and five percent of female drinkers consume more than three cans a day. That’s 80 percent more than 20 years ago.
Overall, Americans are consuming twice as much soda pop as they did 25 years ago. And they’re spending $54 billion a year on it. That’s twice what Americans spend on books.In a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, CSPI urged the department to commission the National Academy of Sciences to study the health impact of soda pop. CSPI also called for numerous reforms to reduce soft-drink consumption, including more water fountains, soda-free schools, and health-education campaigns funded by state taxes on soda.
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, said, "Many teens are drowning in soda pop. It’s become their main beverage, providing many with 15% to 20% of all their calories and squeezing out more-nutritious foods and beverages from their diets. It’s time that parents limited their children’s soft-drink consumption and demanded that local schools get rid of their soft-drink vending machines, just as they have banished smoking."
Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, a bone-disease expert at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, said, "I’m particularly concerned about teenage girls. Most girls have inadequate calcium intakes, which makes them candidates for osteoporosis when they’re older and may increase their risk for broken bones today. High soda consumption is a concern because it may displace milk from the diet in this vulnerable population."Studies described in "Liquid Candy" indicate that diets high in sugary foods like soft drinks may increase the risk of heart disease in "insulin resistant" adults. Other research links cola consumption to kidney stones in men.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other companies are relentless marketers, having spent over $6 billion in the last decade on advertising. Recently, they have started paying big bucks for exclusive marketing rights in schools and other locations frequented by adolescents. For instance, Coca-Cola is paying the Boys & Girls Clubs of America $60 million to make its company’s products the only brands sold in more than 2,000 clubs.
Marianne Manilov, the executive director of the Center for Commercialism-Free Public Education (based in Oakland, California), castigated schools "for sacrificing their students’ health by selling out to Coca-Cola. The marketing agreements virtually ensure that more kids will be drinking more soda -- while their health classes are discouraging consumption. Taxpayers must provide school systems with adequate funds so schools don’t become reliant on junk-food companies."At the press conference, CSPI displayed baby bottles with Pepsi, Seven-Up, and Dr Pepper logos. Those companies have licensed their logos to a major maker of bottles, Munchkin Bottling, Inc. One study found that parents are four times more likely to feed their children soda pop when their children use those logo bottles than when they don’t.
CSPI charged that soft-drink companies are mounting "predatory" marketing campaigns aimed at children and adolescents. One Pepsi commercial shown at the press conference shows a young man and young woman with soda pop spewing from pierced lips, ears, and other body parts. Commercials for high-caffeine products, like Coca-Cola Company’s Surge, appeal to teens who are looking for legal stimulant drugs.
CSPI cited bigger serving sizes as a major reason for increased consumption. In the past 40 years, bottles and cans have ballooned from 6½ ounces to 12 ounces and recently to 20 ounces. Interestingly, back in the 1950s, Coke’s "family size" bottle was only 26 ounces. The Center dubbed 7-Eleven’s 64-ounce, 600-calorie "Double Gulp" the "Pop Belly Special."Diet drinks don’t have the sugar and calories of regular soft drinks. But they still replace more-healthful beverages in the diet. Moreover, at least two artificial sweeteners -- acesulfame-K, used in the new Pepsi One, and saccharin -- are worrisome and may promote cancer, according to CSPI.
Perhaps "Liquid Candy"’s most controversial recommendation is that states tax soda pop to help fund major campaigns to improve diets, build bike paths and recreation centers, and support physical-education programs in schools. Arkansas takes in $40 million annually from its two-cent-per-can tax. Tennessee, Washington state, and West Virginia also tax soda, while industry lobbying has won repeals in New York, North Carolina, and several other states.
Nutritional Impact of Soft DrinksRegular soft drinks provide youths and young adults with hefty amounts of sugar and calories and displace the intake of healthier alternatives. Both regular and diet sodas affect Americans' intake of various minerals, vitamins, and additives.
Sugar IntakeCarbonated drinks are the single biggest source of refined sugars in the American diet. According to dietary surveys, soda pop provides the average American with seven teaspoons of sugar per day, out of a total of 20 teaspoons. Teenage boys get 44% of their 34 teaspoons of sugar a day from soft drinks. Teenage girls get 40% of their 24 teaspoons of sugar from soft drinks. Because some people drink little soda pop, the percentage of sugar provided by pop is higher among actual drinkers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that people eating 1,600 calories a day not eat more than six teaspoons a day of refined sugar, 12 teaspoons for those eating 2,200 calories, and 18 teaspoons for those eating 2,800 calories. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that the average 12- to 19-year-old boy consumes about 2,750 calories and 1½ cans of soda with 15 teaspoons of sugar a day; the average girl consumes about 1,850 calories and one can with ten teaspoons of sugar. Thus, teens just about hit their recommended sugar limits from soft drinks alone. With candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, and other sugary foods, most exceed those recommendations by a large margin.
Calorie IntakeLots of soda pop means lots of sugar means lots of calories. Soft drinks are the fifth largest source of calories for adults. They provide 5.6% of all the calories that Americans consume. In 12- to 19-year-olds, soft drinks provide 9% of boys' calories and 8% of girls' calories. Those percentages are triple (boys) or double (girls) what they were in 1977-78. (See Table 1) Those figures include teens who consumed little or no soda pop.
For the average 13- to 18-year-old boy or girl drinker, soft drinks provide about 9% of calories. Boys and girls in the 75th percentile of consumption obtained 12% of their calories from soft drinks, and those in the 90th percentile about 18% of their calories.
Nutrient IntakesMany nutritionists state that soft drinks and other calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods can fit into a good diet. In theory, they are correct, but, regrettably, they ignore the fact that most Americans consume great quantities of soft drinks and meager quantities of healthful foods. One government study found that only 2% of 2- to 19-year-olds met all five federal recommendations for a healthy diet. USDA's Healthy Eating Index found that on a scale of 0-100, teenagers had scores in the low 60s (as did most other age-sex groups). Scores between 51 and 80 indicate that a diet "needs improvement."
Dietary surveys of teenagers found that in 1996:Only 34% of boys and 33% of girls consumed the number of servings of vegetables recommended by USDA's Food Pyramid.Only 11% of boys and 16% of girls consumed the recommended amount of fruit.Only 29% of boys and 10% of girls consumed the recommended amount of dairy foods.Most boys and girls did not meet the recommended amounts of grain and protein foods.Those surveys also found that few 12- to 19-year-olds consumed recommended amounts of certain nutrients, including:calcium: only 36% of boys and 14% of girls consumed 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).vitamin A: only 36% of boys and 31% of girls consumed 100% of the RDA.magnesium: only 34% of boys and 18% of girls consumed 100% of the RDA.
As teens have doubled or tripled their consumption of soft drinks, they cut their consumption of milk by more than 40%. Twenty years ago, boys consumed more than twice as much milk as soft drinks, and girls consumed 50% more milk than soft drinks (Figure 3). By 1994-96, both boys and girls consumed twice as much soda pop as milk (and 20- to 29-year-olds consumed three times as much). Teenage boys consumed about 2 2/3 cups of carbonated soft drinks per day but only 1 ¼ cups of fluid milk. Girls consumed about 1 ½ cups per day of soft drinks, but less than 1 cup of milk. Compared to adolescent nonconsumers, heavy drinkers of soda pop (26 ounces per day or more) are almost four times more likely to drink less than one glass of milk a day.
In 1977-78, teenage boys and girls who frequently drank soft drinks consumed about 20% less calcium than non-consumers. Heavy soft-drink consumption also correlated with low intake of magnesium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and vitamin A, as well as high intake of calories, fat, and carbohydrate. In 1994-96, calcium continued to be a special problem for female soft-drink consumers.Health Impact of Soft DrinksThe soft-drink industry has consistently portrayed its products as being positively healthful, saying they are 90% water and contain sugars found in nature. A poster that the National Soft Drink Association has provided to teachers states:As refreshing sources of needed liquids and energy, soft drinks represent a positive addition to a well-balanced diet....These same three sugars also occur naturally, for example, in fruits....In your body it makes no difference whether the sugar is from a soft drink or a peach.M. Douglas Ivester, Coca-Cola's chairman and CEO, defending marketing in Africa, said, "Actually, our product is quite healthy. Fluid replenishment is a key to health....Coca-Cola does a great service because it encourages people to take in more and more liquids."In fact, soft drinks pose health risks both because of what they contain (for example, sugar and various additives) and what they replace in the diet (beverages and foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients).
ObesityObesity increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and causes severe social and psychological problems in millions of Americans. Between 1971-74 and 1988-94, obesity rates in teenage boys soared from 5% to 12% and in teenage girls from 7% to 11%. Among adults, between 1976-80 and 1988-94, the rate of obesity jumped by one-third, from 25% to 35%.Numerous factors -- from lack of exercise to eating too many calories to genetics -- contribute to obesity. Soda pop adds unnecessary, non-nutritious calories to the diet, though it has not been possible to prove that it (or any other individual food) is responsible for the excess calories that lead to obesity. However, one recent study found that soft drinks provide more calories to overweight youths than to other youths. The difference was most striking among teenage boys: Soda pop provides 10.3% of the calories consumed by overweight boys, but only 7.6% of calories consumed by other boys. There was no consistent pattern of differences with regard to intake of calories, fat, or several other factors.
Obesity rates have risen in tandem with soft-drink consumption, and heavy consumers of soda pop have higher calorie intakes. While those observations do not prove that sugary soft drinks cause obesity (heavy consumers may exercise more and need more calories), heavy consumption is likely to contribute to weight gain in many consumers.
Regardless of whether soda pop (or sugar) contributes to weight gain, nutritionists and weight-loss experts routinely advise overweight individuals to consume fewer calories -- starting with empty-calorie foods such as soft drinks. The National Institutes of Health recommends that people who are trying to lose or control their weight should drink water instead of soft drinks with sugar.
Bones and OsteoporosisPeople who drink soft drinks instead of milk or other dairy products likely will have lower calcium intakes. Low calcium intake contributes to osteoporosis, a disease leading to fragile and broken bones. Currently, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Another 18 million have low bone mass and are at increased risk of osteoporosis. Women are more frequently affected than men. Considering the low calcium intake of today's teenage girls, osteoporosis rates may well rise.The risk of osteoporosis depends in part on how much bone mass is built early in life. Girls build 92% of their bone mass by age 18, but if they don't consume enough calcium in their teenage years they cannot "catch up" later. That is why experts recommend higher calcium intakes for youths 9 to 18 than for adults 19 to 50. Currently, teenage girls are consuming only 60% of the recommended amount, with soft-drink drinkers consuming almost one-fifth less than nonconsumers.
While osteoporosis takes decades to develop, preliminary research suggests that drinking soda pop instead of milk can contribute to broken bones in children. One study found that children 3 to 15 years old who had suffered broken bones had lower bone density, which can result from low calcium intake.Tooth DecayRefined sugar is one of several important factors that promote tooth decay (dental caries). Regular soft drinks promote decay because they bathe the teeth of frequent consumers in sugar-water for long periods of time during the day. An analysis of data from 1971-74 found a strong correlation between the frequency of between-meal consumption of soda pop and dental caries. (Those researchers considered other sugary foods in the diet and other variables.) Soft drinks appear to cause decay in certain surfaces of certain teeth more than in others.
Tooth-decay rates have declined considerably in recent decades, thanks to such preventive factors as fluoride-containing toothpaste, fluoridated water, tooth sealants, and others. Nevertheless, caries remains a problem for some people. A large survey in California found that children (ages 6 to 8, 15) of less-educated parents have 20% higher rates of decayed and filled teeth. A national study found that African-American and Mexican-American children (6 to 18 years old) are about twice as likely to have untreated caries as their white counterparts. For people in high-risk groups, prevention is particularly important.
To prevent tooth decay, even the Canadian Soft Drink Association recommends limiting between-meal snacking of sugary and starchy foods, avoiding prolonged sugar levels in the mouth, and eating sugary foods and beverages with meals. Unfortunately, many heavy drinkers of soft drinks violate each of those precepts.
Heart DiseaseHeart disease is the nation's number-one killer. Some of the most important causes are diets high in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol; cigarette smoking; and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, in many adults a diet high in sugar may also promote heart disease.High-sugar diets may contribute to heart disease in people who are "insulin resistant." Those people, an estimated one-fourth of adults, frequently have high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol in their blood. When they eat a diet high in carbohydrates, their triglyceride and insulin levels rise. Sugar has a greater effect than other carbohydrates. The high triglyceride levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. It would make sense for insulin-resistant people, in particular, to consume low levels of regular soft drinks and other sugary foods. Research is needed on insulin resistance in adolescents.
Kidney StonesKidney (urinary) stones are one of the most painful disorders to afflict humans and one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a unit of the National Institutes of Health, more than 1 million cases of kidney stones were diagnosed in 1985. NIDDK estimates that 10 percent of all Americans will have a kidney stone during their lifetime. Several times more men, frequently between the ages of 20 and 40, are affected than women. Young men are also the heaviest consumers of soft drinks.
After a study suggested a link between soft drinks and kidney stones, researchers conducted an intervention trial. That trial involved 1,009 men who had suffered kidney stones and drank at least 5 1/3 ounces of soda pop per day. Half the men were asked to refrain from drinking pop, while the others were not asked. Over the next three years drinkers of Coca-Cola and other cola beverages acidified only with phosphoric acid who reduced their consumption (to less than half their customary levels) were almost one-third less likely to experience recurrence of stones. Among those who usually drank soft drinks acidified with citric acid (with or without phosphoric acid), drinking less had no effect. While more research needs to be done on the cola-stone connection, the NIDDK includes cola beverages on a list of foods that doctors may advise patients to avoid.

Additives: Psychoactive Drug, Allergens, and MoreSeveral additives in soft drinks raise health concerns. Caffeine, a mildly addictive stimulant drug, is present in most cola and "pepper" drinks, as well as some orange sodas and other products. Caffeine's addictiveness may be one reason why six of the seven most popular soft drinks contain caffeine. Caffeine-free colas are available, but account for only about 5% of colas made by Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola.42 On the other hand, Coca-Cola and other companies have begun marketing soft drinks, such as Surge, Josta, and Jolt, with 30% to 60% more caffeine than Coke and Pepsi.
In 1994-96, the average 13- to 18-year-old boy who drank soft drinks consumed about 12/3 cans per day. Those drinking Mountain Dew would have ingested 92 mg of caffeine from that source (55 mg caffeine/12 ounces). That is equivalent to about one six-ounce cup of brewed coffee. Boys in the 90th-percentile of soft-drink consumption consume as much caffeine as is in two cups of coffee; for girls the figure is 1½ cups of coffee.
One problem with caffeine is that it increases the excretion of calcium in urine. Drinking 12 ounces of caffeine-containing soft drink causes the loss of about 20 milligrams of calcium, or two percent of the U.S. RDA (or Daily Value). That loss, compounded by the relatively low calcium intake in girls who are heavy consumers of soda pop, may increase the risk of osteoporosis.Caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, and rapid heart beat. Caffeine causes children who normally do not consume much caffeine to be restless and fidgety, develop headaches, and have difficulty going to sleep. Also, caffeine's addictiveness may keep people hooked on soft drinks (or other caffeine-containing beverages). One reflection of the drug's addictiveness is that when children age six to 12 stop consuming caffeine, they suffer withdrawal symptoms that impair their attention span and performance.
Several additives used in soft drinks cause occasional allergic reactions. Yellow 5 dye causes asthma, hives, and a runny nose. A natural red coloring, cochineal (and its close relative carmine), causes life-threatening reactions. Dyes can cause hyperactivity in sensitive children.In diet sodas, artificial sweeteners may raise concerns. Saccharin, which has been replaced by aspartame in all but a few brands, has been linked in human studies to urinary-bladder cancer and in animal studies to cancers of the bladder and other organs. Congress has required products made with saccharin to bear a warning label. The safety of acesulfame-K, which was approved in 1998 for use in soft drinks, has been questioned by several cancer experts. Also, aspartame should be better tested.
Aggressive Marketing of Soft DrinksSoft-drink companies are among the most aggressive marketers in the world. They have used advertising and many other techniques to increase sales.Soft-drink advertising budgets dwarf all advertising and public-service campaigns promoting the consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthful diets, and low-fat milk. In 1997, Coca-Cola, which accounts for 44% of the soft-drink market in the U.S., spent $277 million on advertising and the four major companies $631 million. Between 1986 and 1997 those companies spent $6.8 billion on advertising.
Companies make sure their products are always readily accessible. Thus, in 1997, 2.8 million soft-drink vending machines dispensed 27 billion drinks worth $17.5 billion. Coca-Cola's soft drinks are sold at two million stores, more than 450,000 restaurants, and 1.4 million vending machines and coolers.
The major companies target children aggressively (though, to their credit, they have not gone after 4-year-olds by advertising on Saturday-morning television). Pepsi advertises on Channel One, a daily news program shown in 12,000 schools. Companies inculcate brand loyalties in children and boost consumption by paying school districts and others for exclusive marketing agreements. For instance, Dr Pepper paid the Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas, School District $3.45 million for a ten-year contract (it includes rooftop advertising to reach passengers in planes landing at the nearby Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport). To reach youths after school, Coca-Cola is paying $60 million over ten years to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for exclusive marketing rights in more than 2,000 clubs.
In one of the most despicable marketing gambits, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and Seven-Up encourage feeding soft drinks to babies by licensing their logos to a major maker of baby bottles, Munchkin Bottling, Inc. Infants and toddlers are four times likelier to be fed soda pop out of those bottles than out of regular baby bottles.
Also fueling soft-drink sales is the low cost of the sugar-water-additive products. (See Table 4) Supermarket brands are particularly cheap, easily getting as low as 28 cents per quart, but even Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are available for 33 cents per quart when on special. Milk costs two to three times as much, about 70 to 95 cents per quart.Moreover, in recent years, inflation has had a greater effect on the price of milk than of soft drinks. Between 1982-84 and 1997 the Consumer Price Index rose 2.3 times as much for milk as for soft drinks.
The soft-drink industry is aiming for continued expansion in coming years. Thus, the president of Coca-Cola bemoans the fact that his company accounts for only 1 billion out of the 47 billion servings of all beverages that earthlings consume daily. The company's goal is to:make Coca-Cola the preferred drink for any occasion, whether it's a simple family supper or a formal state dinner. . . . [T]o build pervasiveness of our products, we're putting ice-cold Coca-Cola classic and our other brands within reach, wherever you look: at the supermarket, the video store, the soccer field, the gas station -- everywhere.
Recommendations for ActionIn part because of powerful advertising, universal availability, and low price, and in part because of disinterest on the part of many nutritionists and other health professionals, Americans have come to consider soft drinks a routine snack and a standard, appropriate part of meals instead of an occasional treat, as they were treated several decades ago. Moreover, many of today's younger parents grew up with soft drinks, see their routine consumption as normal, and so make little effort to restrict their children's consumption of them.
It is a fact, though, that soft drinks provide enormous amounts of sugar and calories to a nation that does not meet national dietary goals and that is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. The replacement of milk by soft drinks in teenage girls' diets portends continuing high rates of osteoporosis. Soft drinks may also contribute to dental problems, kidney stones, and heart disease. Additives may cause insomnia, behavioral problems, and allergic reactions and may increase slightly the risk of cancer.
The industry promises that it will be doing everything possible to persuade even more Americans to drink even more soda pop even more often. Parents and health officials need to recognize soft drinks for what they are -- liquid candy -- and do everything possible to return those beverages to their former, reasonable role as an occasional treat.Individuals and families should consider how much soda pop they are drinking and reduce consumption accordingly. Parents should stock their homes with healthful foods and beverages that family members enjoy.
Physicians, nurses, and nutritionists routinely should ask their patients how much soda pop they are drinking and advise them, if appropriate, of dietary changes to make.Organizations concerned about women's and children's health, dental and bone health, and heart disease should collaborate on campaigns to reduce soft-drink consumption.Local, state, and federal governments should be as aggressive in providing water fountains in public buildings and spaces as the industry is in placing vending machines everywhere.State and local governments should considering taxing soft drinks, as Arkansas, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia already do. Arkansas raised $40 million in fiscal year 1998 from that tax. If all states taxed soft drinks at Arkansas' rate (2 cents per 12-ounce can), they could raise $3 billion annually. Those revenues could fund campaigns to improve diets, build exercise facilities (bike paths, swimming pools, etc.), and support physical-education programs in schools.Local governments could require calorie listings on menu boards at fast-food outlets and on vending machines to sensitize consumers to the nutritional "cost" of sugared soft drinks and other foods.
School systems and other organizations catering to children should stop selling soft drinks, candy, and similar foods in hallways, shops, and cafeterias.School systems and youth organizations should not auction themselves off to the highest bidder for exclusive soft-drink marketing rights. Those deals profit the companies and schools at the expense of the students' health.
The National Academy of Sciences or Surgeon General should review the impact of current and projected levels of soft-drink (and sugar) consumption on public health.Soft-drink companies voluntarily should not advertise to children and adolescents. Labels should advise parents that soft drinks may replace lowfat milk, fruit juice, and other healthy foods in the diets of children and adolescents.Lastly and most importantly, scientific research should explore the role of heavy consumption of soft drinks (and sugar) in nutritional status, obesity, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Related Web Sites:* for a soft drink site from the Center for Science in the Public Interest*

Oil and Heat

Since there are several good books that discuss the impact of different fats on health and body composition, I'll avoid a detailed discussion of fats in general and focus simply on giving you a quick overview of what heating does to fats.Heating, under both normal high-temperature household conditions (pan frying) as well as more extreme conditions (repeated deep frying), affects both the characteristics and composition of dietary fat. Heating changes the chemical structure of the fat and leads to oxidation as well as the loss of some nutrients like antioxidants and essential fatty acids. These changes are relatively universal and only vary in degree (pun intended) and duration of heating.
All oils will oxidize in a big way if repeatedly heated to high temperatures for long periods of time. But even normal household frying temperatures and durations can cause partial oxidation. Some fats, however, do better than others. Saturated fats like butter and tropical fats like coconut and palm oil are the most resistant to oxidation since they're more heat stables.Olive oil (due to its phenolic content and monounsaturated structure) is next in terms of resistance to oxidation and heat stability. Olive oil can be made more stable by the addition of antioxidants to the oil (for example, Vitamin E). And polyunsaturated fats bring up the rear as the most easily oxidized fats and the least stable.Therefore we now have an order of "cooking safety,” showing that the saturated fats were the best while olive oil and polyunsaturated fats are the worst. This means that the physio-chemical properties of the good, "healthful" oils are the worst with cooking. Therefore the picture emerging is that the "good fats" need to be unprocessed and unheated in order to stay "good."
Although I hate to do this to you, there's more bad news for us to contend with. While there are big increases in lipid oxidation products with heated oils like olive and safflower, there are also measurable physiological effects as a result. Cooking with these oils also leads to increases in plasma triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and decreases in HDL cholesterol (the good kind) when compared to non-heated oils (which actually do the opposite). So not only does heating affect the fat, but it affects how the body handles the fat. Strike two!
Finally, I'll give you the last piece of bad news. It's well known that pan-frying/grilling meat will typically produce mutagenic (cancer-causing) agents. However, newer data are showing that cooking with most oil actually increases the heat transfer from the pan to the meat, increasing the mutagenic activity of the food. Strike three!
So, with all of this bad news, what's a health conscious person to do? Well, I'm about to make some recommendations. Keep in mind that some of them may go against conventional thought and/or practice. But this section is not here to appease the masses.

The following recommendations will optimize your use of fats for both health and physique enhancement. Never use additional fats when pan-frying/grilling meat! If pan-frying/grilling meat use a non-stick surface or coat the pan with a minimal amount of some sort of cooking sprays. This will prevent large increases in the amount of mutagenic chemicals formed.
Never use mono- or poly-unsaturated fats when pan-frying! When pan-frying non-meat dishes use a non-stick surface or coat the pan with a minimal amount of cooking spray. If some sort of oil must be used for this type of cooking, use a saturated fat source like butter since these types of fats are most stable. Just be careful with how often you do this since excess saturated fat intake presents a whole other host of health problems.When baking, use saturated fats and/or olive oil only! These are best to use for oil stability reasons (but see above for saturated fat warning).
Never heat flax oil or fish oil! Oil supplements like flax oil and fish oil need to be consumed without any further processing or else their EFA (essential fatty acids) content will be destroyed. Exposure to heat and light should be prevented. In addition, olive oil is best when the extra virgin type is consumed and it's consumed unheated. Corn, canola, safflower, flax, etc. oils are the least heat stable of the oils, will become highly oxidized, and will lose their EFA content with cooking.Never, ever deep fry foods!Never, ever cook with polyunsaturated fats!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Margarine is a golden yellow solid spread that has been touted for many decades as a healthier alternative to butter. It is manufactured of polyunsaturated vegetable oils that are altered chemically by saturating their carbon bonds with hydrogen. Hydrogenation changes the liquid vegetable oils to a solid. As a result, it can be used like butter on toast, rolls, and other foods. Hydrogenation also renders the oils more stable, so they are less perishable and have a longer shelf life.

The "margarine is healthy" campaign has been very effective in terms of sales. People who were concerned about their cholesterol levels and risk of heart attack abandoned butter and dramatically increased margarine use. In fact, by 1980, margarine consumption was almost triple that of butter. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are ubiquitous, used in all types of fast food products and processed foods. These include crackers, snack foods, salad oils, cooking oils, bread , and pretty much everything else you eat.

Are the health claims made for margarine actually true? A number of studies have turned up troubling data on this subject. While it is true that margarine contains no cholesterol, the process of hydrogenation changes not only the physical form of the oils but alters the way they are metabolized by the body. Once vegetable oils are hydrogenated, they are no longer polyunsaturated. In fact, with hydrogenation, the beneficial structure of the essential fatty acids is altered or destroyed. As a result, the final margarine product is much lower in essential fatty acids. Most of the beneficial oils have been changed to a form called transfatty acids. These transfatty acids tend to predominate in margarine, with some samples containing as much as 60 percent of their oils in this altered form.

Transfatty acids behave differently than the natural oils from which they were derived. They burn more slowly than natural oils and interfere with their function. Transfatty acids also tend to concentrate in the heart. Ominously, recent studies show that people eating four or more teaspoons per day of margarine actually have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In one study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the trans-fatty acids in margarine were found to increase LDL cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol associated with an increased risk of heart attacks. Transfatty acids were also found to lower the beneficial and protective HDL cholesterol levels. Other studies have shown that transfatty acids also increase the level of triglycerides, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Another drawback of margarine is that its high water content continues to alter its chemical structure while it is on the supermarket shelf. This degrades the product further. What is the solution? Ideally, people in our society should decrease their intake, both margarine and butter. With 40 percent of the average American diet composed of fats, intake of margarine should be sharply curtailed. For those who want to continue to use fats in food preparation, the amount should be decreased significantly. Steaming, roasting, broiling, and other preparation techniques that are fat free should be favored over frying and sautéing in large quantities of oil. When cooking with oil, often a small amount will work just as well. Instead of using margarine as a spread for toast, rolls, or other grain products, use fresh fruit preserves or raw seed and nut butters that have their natural oils intact. Try olive oil as a topping instead of margarine; it is delicious on bread and toast. Avoid fast food outlets since they tend to use partially hydrogenated oils in much of their food preparation. Also, read labels carefully when you buy convenience foods and processed foods in the supermarket. If they contain hydrogenated oil, you are better off buying a safer substitute that contains natural oil, or no oils.