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    Archive for the ‘caffeine’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Yerba Maté

    yerbacupIn response to your recent tea post, what are your thoughts on yerba maté?

    I lived in Cordoba, Argentina for a year and brought a daily maté habit back with me.

    My coworkers find it highly entertaining (one christened my maté/bombilla setup “the tea bong” and tried to light it) and I probably consume between 1 – 2 liters a day of maté.

    I don’t drink coffee, occasionally drink unsweetened or mildly sweetened black, green, white or rooibos tea but cannot live without my maté.

    I always drink it with no sugar — just like the gauchos!

    — Nicole B.
    Via Facebook

    For those of you unfamiliar with yerba maté, it is a loose-leaf herb that is consumed as a beverage in Argentina as well as parts of Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia.

    It is usually consumed by steeping the loose leaves in a gourd (made of metal, which also contains a metal straw) with hot water (though some people prefer to use cold) and then, optionally, sprinkling some sugar on top.

    While maté is a dietary staple for millions of people in South America, it is relatively new to the United States.  Consequently, I am horrified at the extreme ways in which it is talked about.

    On the one hand, you have the opportunists who advertise maté as some sort of miracle beverage that will not only help you lose weight and prevent all sorts of cancers, but also slow down aging and practically make all your dreams come true.

    As you may have guessed, most of that advertising is pure hype.

    Then there are some overly cautious individuals in the nutrition field who, perhaps because of fear of the unknown, caution against drinking maté, citing it increases cancer risk, raises  blood pressure, and can have fatal consequences.

    The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

    It is true that consistently high intakes of maté can increase certain cancers (particularly oral and esophageal).  However, that is not the result of something intrinsic in mate leaves, but rather because of the very high temperatures at which maté is usually consumed.

    The blood pressure concerns particularly confuse me because all caffeinated beverages temporarily raise blood pressure after consumption (and, if anything, research has demonstrated that compounds in caffeine help reduce risk of high blood pressure!).  Besides, a two-tablespoon serving of loose maté leaves contain less caffeine than a 16-ounce Starbucks latte.

    An added bonus?  Apart from containing exclusive health-promoting compounds similar to those in green tea, maté is also a great source of potassium — two tablespoons of leaves provide even more of the mineral than an orange or banana.

    There have been reports of some individuals developing fatal liver disorders from drinking maté, but statistically you are talking about 0.001% of maté drinkers; by no means a norm or even a “small but significant minority”.

    As far as I’m concerned, maté is much like tea — a beverage that is by no means a magic bullet, but offers a fair amount health benefits.


    You Ask, I Answer: Antioxidant Loss in Decaffeinated Tea?

    800px-tea_bagsI’ve recently switched to decaf green teas and am concerned that I might not be getting the same amount of antioxidants/polyphenols because of the process used.

    I’ve read that chemical processing removes a great deal of these along with the caffeine. My vendor lists the process for their teas as non-chemical Carbon Dioxide.

    Am I really losing that much by drinking decaf teas?

    I’ve also read that by steeping for 30 seconds and tossing the water out to steep again a second time removes a great deal of the caffeine because it’s very water soluable.

    I wonder how much caffeine that simple water based process can really remove.

    — Angelo Iacovella
    Doylestown, PA

    In the same way that different cooking techniques affect the nutrient content of food differently, the same applies to decaffeination processes.

    The most common form of decaffeinating a beverage is through the use of ethyl acetate, a chemical solvent.

    Since that is the most common form, it is also the process that has garnered the most research attention.

    The general consensus is that this form of caffeine extraction significantly reduces polyphenol and antioxidants levels in green tea (loss figures range from 40 to 75 percent per 8-ounce cup).

    This is not to say green tea becomes “unhealthy” or nutritionally worthless, but rather that its health-promoting properties are diminished.

    Keep in mind, though, that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds also offer a wide array of polyphenols and antioxidants.

    Green tea offers some wonderfully healthy compounds, but it is not a magical potion.

    Carbon dioxide decaffeination is more expensive, and therefore far less common.  A small number of studies have looked at its effects on specific antioxidants and components found in green tea (mainly cacethins).

    The good news?  This process is less harsh on the studied components.

    The “not quite spectacular” news?  There is no research that demonstrates what effect, if any, carbon dioxide decaffeination has on other health-promoting components found in green tea.

    Let’s now answer your question regarding levels of caffeine extracted from throwing out water used to steep tea for 30 seconds.

    As that is not my field of expertise, I got in touch with three food chemists, all of whom are very familiar with the chemical properties of caffeine.

    Their consensus?  While caffeine is water soluble, thirty seconds is not enough time to warrant a substantial loss.

    One of them made mention to a study from approximately ten years ago (although he did not remember the journal in which it was published) which found that steeping a tea bag for five minutes resulted in two thirds of the caffeine content leeching out into the water.


    Red Bull for Weight Loss?

    176I have overheard some of the most interesting nutrition-related conversations while in line at Starbucks.

    This morning, two college-aged men behind me discussed the many pivotal roles that energy drink Red Bull plays in their lives.

    “Dude, that’s my breakfast whenever I have an 8 AM class,” the scruffy and lankier one sporting  sweatpants and a baseball cap said.  (FYI: This was at a Starbucks in the heart of New York University’s urban campus, where Summer classes are currently in session).

    “I just drink it whenever I eat junk,” his friend countered.  “It speeds up your metabolism, so I when I eat a lot of crap, it burns, like, twice the calories.”

    I was thisclose to turning around and saying something.  The words were about to catapult from the tip of my tongue when I thought, “wait a second, do I really want to be that guy?”

    Alas, I decided to tackle the issue here in case anyone else had similar thoughts on Red Bull consumption.

    A statement on the cans claims the cough-syrup-tasting carbonated beverage “stimulates metabolism.”  This is based on the presence of B vitamins, caffeine, and taurine.

    While caffeine increases heartrate and affects the nervous system in such a way as to heighten awareness, its metabolic effects are short-lived.

    B vitamins are necessary for energy transport at a cellular level, but they do not burn off excess calories.

    Besides, B vitamins are water-soluble, so excesses are excreted in urine (not stored up for calorie-burning).

    Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is actually a metabolite of two other amino acids.  It is also non-essential, meaning we do not need to obtain it from the diet.

    Some preliminary research conducted on endurance athletes has shown that high levels of taurine supplementation may increase stamina.

    Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the long-term effects of taurine supplementation.

    Red Bull’s ingredients can provide a temporary energy boost, which can come in handy before you engage in strenuous physical activity (in fact, there is a solid body of research showing that caffeine can improve athletic performance).

    In that sense, one could technically conclude that these drinks can result in a higher number of calories burned during exercise.

    Keep in mind, though, that a can of Red Bull adds 110 calories and 6 teaspoons of added sugar to your day.

    Even if you are chugging on a sugar-free version that only contains 10 calories, Red Bull and other energy drinks do not  negate or block the calories in a meal.


    You Ask, I Answer: Caffeine

    coffee-beansThe only unit of energy, nutritionally speaking, is a calorie.

    But caffeine is supposed to give people energy, and I’ve felt its effects myself.

    That said, you can’t gain weight from caffeine alone, so what causes that energizing sensation without calories?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    As a stimulant, caffeine increases dopamine production, which in turn prevents adenosine (a neurotransmitter associated with tiredness) from performing effectively.

    Think, if you will, of adenosine as a lightbulb and caffeine as a dark-tinted cloth that prevents the lightbulb from transmitting sufficient light.

    Caffeine also affects the nervous system by contracting muscles, increasing blood flow to the muscles, and increasing heart rate.

    These nerve impulses can be helpful as far as physical activity goes, which is why a small amount of caffeine prior to a workout is considered beneficial.

    While we’re at it, let’s clarify the term “energy”.

    Calories provide not only “physical energy” but also energy for a variety of bodily functions and cellular processes.

    Caffeine, in and of itself, affects the nervous system and brain and ultimately provides a burst of physical — and mental — energy, but does not contribute to metabolic processes and pathways in the same way calories do.


    You Ask, I Answer: Caffeine & Calcium

    Is it true that coffee causes osteoporosis?

    — Linda (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    Before I answer, allow me to get something off my chest.

    Statements like “[insert name of food here] causes [insert disease/condition here]” are tremendously inaccurate.

    If someone ever tells you that a food causes a particular disease, promise me your “BS” alarms will go off.

    Unless you are talking about foodborne illness issues, food as a whole does not cause disease.

    Rather, it is particular components in certain foods that, when consumed consistently over long periods of time, can elevate one’s risk of developing a certain condition.

    This reminds me of absurd statements like “ice cream makes you fat.”

    While a 600-calorie sundae every day after dinner will surely result in weight gain, a one-scoop ice cream cone every Saturday night is no cause for concern.

    “Ice cream makes you fat” wrongly categorizes 150 calories and 900 calories of the same food as nutritionally equal.

    Similarly, saying that “coffee causes osteoporosis” is too broad a statement. At the very least, whoever is making such a statement should identify what specific component in coffee is believed to affect bone mass.

    Which brings us to the question at hand.

    Since caffeine is a diuretic that results in a higher-than-normal excretion of calcium in urine and feces, some people jump to the conclusion that, therefore, caffeine intake is related to osteoporosis.

    However, studies have demonstrated that the average cup of coffee — 8 ounces and approximately 150 milligrams of caffeine — increases calcium excretion by a practically insignificant 5 milligrams (remember, you should be getting 1,000 milligrams a day).

    To balance this out, all you need to do is add a single teaspoon of milk to your coffee.

    Keep in mind that all the studies looking at caffeine’s effect on calcium levels assume people drink black coffee (an 8-ounce latte, meanwhile, contains two thirds of a cup of milk!).

    Another concern with caffeine is that it inhibits intestinal absorption of calcium. While true, our bodies are smart and make up for this by increasing calcium absorption at the next meal.


    You Ask, I Answer: Caffeine and Pregnancy

    My friend and I are both pregnant, but the advice we have gotten about caffeine [intake] during our pregnancy is very different.

    My doctor was vague. He said that caffeine “once in a while” was okay.

    Her doctor said she should refrain from having any.

    Isn’t that too strict?

    — Marcia (last name withheld)
    (location withheld)

    Unless there are specific conditions that put your friend at a high risk for miscarrying, I am not sure I understand the reasoning behind the “completely abstain from caffeine” recommendation.

    Although liberal consumption is not recommended for pregnant women, it is believed they can safely consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine per day without placing their developing fetus’ health at risk (the main concerns being a higher risk for miscarriages as well as problems with cellular development).

    Sticking to less than 200 milligrams of caffeine each day isn’t really too difficult.

    A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola, for instance, only contains 35 milligrams.

    Your average 8 ounce cup of green tea adds 50 milligrams to your day, and a 16 ounce latte (that’s “grande” if you speak Starbucks) clocks in at 150 milligrams.

    For those who like a stronger cup of Joe, the average 8 ounce cup of percolated coffee clocks in at anywhere from 130 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.

    Other sources — like coffee ice cream or a chocolate bar — offer very little caffeine (anywhere from 10 to 25 milligrams per serving.)


    In The News: A Different Kind of Beer Buzz

    Forget Redbull and Monster energy drinks. Mixing Red Bull and vodka at the club? Soooo 5 years ago.

    The latest fad consists of canned alcoholic energy drinks. In the past year alone, one such drink — Miller’s Sparks — “delivered strong full-year double-digit growth.”

    This is particularly puzzling to me since one sip of the cloyingly sweet and artificial fizzy concoction was enough to make me grimace and shudder.

    In their latest issue, Time Magazine profiles a newcomer to the scene: Joose — a malted energy drink that packs as much caffeine as a cup of coffee and almost twice the alcohol content of a can of Budweiser.

    Artificial repulsiveness aside, one problem with these hybrid caffeine and alcohol beverages is that they “trick [the] brain into believing you’re not as drunk as you are.”

    By the way, one 16-ounce can of Sparks adds up to 350 calories.


    Over in Oprah Land….

    Time to see what Oprah’s blog reveals about her ongoing 21-day vegan diet (remember, she’s also shunning sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    Last Friday, Oprah stopped by Tom Cruise’s Telluride home, where she was met with a “ribs and chicken” (marinated in some sort of Scientology-friendly sauce, I’m sure) lunch.

    Granted, this was no vegan-friendly meal, so Oprah opted for salad, corn on the cob (no butter, of course) and kale.

    Which brings me to a very important point. Well-balanced vegan mealplans need to be researched and planned.

    I believe a vegan lifestyle can be healthy, but it must be looked into carefully prior to taking the plunge.

    If anyone reading this is considering going vegan, be my guest — but speak with a Registered Dietitian or, at the very least, read educational materials (preferably written by RDs) on how to meet your nutrient needs with meat and dairy alternatives.

    Becoming familiar with vegan alternatives and always being prepared (i.e.: carrying a source of protein like nuts or seeds in your bag in a small Ziploc bag) sets you up for success.

    Otherwise — especially when attending an event at a non-vegan’s house who is not familiar with your “diet,” — you run the risk of piling up on side dishes.

    Oprah’s lunch offers very little protein, zinc, iron, and fat. Nibbling on corn and greens is simply not nutritious — or filling!

    The next day — Saturday — Oprah is in Vegas and begins her entry with the following:

    “Tal [the vegan chef ‘assigned’ to Oprah and her team] has Fed-Exed food to Vegas, so we have egg-less omelets for breakfast and lasagna for the plane ride home.”

    Alright, I cry foul. Come on — anyone can do a 21 day vegan/sugar/wheat/alcohol/caffeine cleanse if a vegan chef Fed-Exes them meals!

    I would have liked to see Oprah “keep it real” and traverse the meat-laden obstacle that is Las Vegas.

    In that same posting, Oprah proudly mentions abstaining from having a celebratory glass of champagne.

    I still don’t understand how the shunning of alcohol (or gluten or sugar, for that matter) relates to becoming a more spiritually aware being.

    Besides, any dietary plan that has you obsessing over certain foods and beverages (the “I would like a drink but I am on this clease so as good as that would be I am just going to have seltzer and lime” sentiment has appeared a few times already) needs to be examined more closely.

    Sure, alcohol can be a source of empty calories, so although two drinks a day is not a good idea, not allow yourself one drink two days out of the week?

    The next day, a pooped Oprah mentions the vegan chef dropping off gluten and wheat-free waffles at her house just in time for breakfast. Oh goodie, how convenient!

    It frustrates me to think that viewers of Oprah’s show will blindly follow a similar diet, oblivious of some very necessary nutrients they may miss out on.

    Additionally, this idea that wheat and gluten are evil is misleading and completely subjective; it is only a problem for someone with a gluten allergy or celiac disease.

    This is a perfect example of something applicable to a small percent of the population being heralded as “general nutrition advice”

    Allow me to repeat my plea. Oprah, enough with the fad dieting. You’re a smart, accomplished woman with an immense fan base.

    Next time you want to tackle nutrition, why not invite a panel of Registered Dietitians to share information, debunk myths, and give people practical information they can apply to their daily lives?


    Checking in with Oprah

    I recently told you about Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse (which, apart from obviously shunning all animal-derived foods, also bans sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    The talk show queen is blogging on her site and updating everyone on her progress.

    Day 1 was fairly easy to traverse.

    You certainly can’t knock it as an unhealthy eating pattern.

    That day alone includes standouts like oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, wild rice, a baked potato, and olive oil.

    As wonderfully whole as all those foods are, I have some concerns.

    Despite providing sufficient calories (roughly 1,600), fiber, and protein, the total amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium do not meet requirements.

    Additionally, such a heavy reliance on nuts (they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack) really drives up the Omega-6 fatty acid content.

    This is slightly troublesome because, apart from some walnuts at breakfast and olive oil as salad dressing, Omega-3 intake isn’t that high.

    Remember, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio plays an important role in our health.

    I would personally add flaxseed to breakfast and replace the pinenuts in the dinner salad with nori (or some other sort of seaweed, naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.)

    By the next day, things get interesting — and a little unrealistic. Oprah and her exec producers (also doing this diet with her) get their very own vegan chef!

    And, alas, I’m back to my original gripes with this entire “cleanse.”

    When you start banning multiple food groups and not allowing yourself to have gluten (the most bizarre part of this plan; there is no reason to give up gluten unless you have an intolerance to it) or sugar, you’ll find that unless you are very experienced around a kitchen and alternative ingredients — or hire a personal chef — it is not easy to maintain a dietary lifestyle that is interesting, practical, healthy, and balanced.

    For Oprah and her colleagues to go the personal chef route is a bit of a copout. They should attempt to do this on the average income of an adult in the United States.

    Take this example — on day two, Oprah and her fellow cleansers wake up to strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes.

    Do you think that on a random Wednesday morning you’ll find yourself concocting such a recipe in your kitchen at 7 AM? I doubt it.

    A successful eating plan is not only nutritious and tasty, it also has to be convenient. What’s so wrong about some whole or sprouted grain toast with peanut butter?

    Or a bowl of whole grain cereal (slightly sweetened, say a measly 3 grams of sugar per serving) with soymilk and raisins?

    In yesterday’s blog entry
    , Oprah hints at another problem with these overly strict regimens (let me make something very clear: it is one thing to be vegan, but a whole other thing to be a vegan who abstains from sugar, coffee, alcohol, and gluten) — they can render you defenseless outside the four walls of your home.

    Oprah mentions flying to Las Vegas later this week and being slightly nervous about her choices.

    I hope she prepares herself for an eye-opening experience.

    Forget vegan-friendly, Vegas is barely vegetarian-friendly.

    Even something as standard and semi fast food-ish as a veggie burger is hard to come by. The only place where I felt healthy cooking was a priority was the spa at the Venetian Hotel.

    Otherwise, bring your own snacks!

    I found today’s entry to be cause for concern:

    “I hit a wall today. Literally had to stand in my closet and bound the walls, the cabinets, the floor for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.”

    A well-planned, balanced, practical eating plan should not have you feeling like this on day four.

    This is why I very much oppose overnight radical shifts. Not only is there no physiological benefit to banning things left and right from one day to the next, it also conjures up issues of self-flagellation and unnecessary deprivation that often accompany a lot of weight loss plans.

    It particularly upsets me because it sends very erroneous messages: healthy eating is a chore, it involves giving up pleasures, it pushes your body to the limit.


    The path to healthy eating and smart choices is not always going to be smooth and easy — it is perfectly common and understandable to have the occassional setback — and extreme approaches such as this “cleanse” certainly don’t help.

    It’s a shame that someone as influential and looked up to as Oprah isn’t using her show as a platform to show that wellness and health can be achieved without personal chefs, swearing off foods, or feeling like the world is caving in on you.

    Anyhow, Oprah has two more weeks to go. I’ll be sure to follow her progress and keep you all in the loop.


    O No!

    The issue of detoxing with dietary cleanses has been a hot topic on Small Bites over the past few days.

    In what is an interesting coincidence, Oprah Winfrey has begun a 21-day vegan cleanse inspired by Quantum Wellness author Kathy Freston.

    Freston, a self-described spiritual advisor (with no nutrition credentials), suggests this cleanse as a way to begin a “spiritual makeover”.

    Freston’s belief is that spiritual enlightenment includes a diet free of all animal products.

    Alright, full disclosure time: I have not eaten red meat, poultry, or pork since 1998.

    That decision was made after being informed of what I considered to be cruel treatment and welfare of animals who later become food.

    There was also the issue of the environmental toll resulting from raising animals for human consumption.

    So, while I can certainly appreciate the ideas of awareness and enlightenment, I am put off by attaching a 21-day vegan “cleanse” to the concept of a spiritual makeover.

    Going vegan for 3 weeks is not a cure for low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, or loneliness.

    Furthermore, if this is about enlightenment and the use of animals as food, why does this cleanse also ban (UGH, UGH, UGH) sugar, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol?

    Any plan that asks you to ban, forbid, or do away with certain foods or food groups overnight is a recipe for disaster.

    If anything, such abrupt changes will leave you more irritable, moody, and cranky than Kumbayah.

    Think of it this way. If you suddenly decided you wanted to start swimming, would you go for 50 laps your first time around? I don’t think so.

    Anyhow, Oprah started the cleanse this week and will update readers via her blog.

    I will follow this closely and comment on anything that stands out to me.

    Later today, I will take one of Oprah’s sample days and see what we come up with from a caloric and nutrient standpoint.


    In The News: What’s Next? Genetically Modified Bananas With Extra Potassium?

    Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures.

    Currently experiencing a lull in revenue, coffee giant Starbucks jumps on the energy drink bandwagon 5 years after everyone else.

    That’s right — you can now amp any Starbucks beverage — hot or iced — by simply saying “plus energy” at the end of your order (dare you to order a “grande sugarfree vanilla decaf carameal macchiatto with breve plus energy” without stopping to take a breath!).

    The “plus energy” concoction — created by Starbucks’ “research and development team, a group of culinary experts, food scientists and product designers” — includes the usual suspects: ginseng, guarana, taurine, L-carnitine, and B vitamins.

    FYI: Guarana is a berry native to South America containing four times as much caffeine as coffee beans. It’s extremely popular in Brazil, where it is mainly consumed as a soda, in both regular and diet varieties.

    Is all this really necessary in a coffee-based drink? I vote “no.”

    Why are “energy mixes” billed as the only solution for a drop in energy levels? Is healthy eating and getting enough shut eye not “cool” enough?

    And why are we increasingly encouraging people to walk around like the Energizer bunny on crack?


    And The Most Unnecessary New Product Award Goes To…

    Snickers Charged.

    A “limited edition” Snickers bar sprinkled with caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine “to help get you through the day.”


    Okay, let’s break this down.

    A regular Snickers bar adds up to 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams (25% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

    Snickers Charged comes in at 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar.

    The lower values are simply because Charged is smaller in size than its regular counterpart. The folks at Mars Inc. have not gotten more health conscious.

    Anyhow, Charged tacks on 60 milligrams of caffeine, 250 milligrams of taurine, and 10 percent of the daily value Vitamins B6 and B12.

    Can you say underwhelming?

    That same amount of B6 can be obtained from half a cup of avocado, one can of tuna, a single ounce of sunflower seeds, one quarter of a chicken breast, a quarter cup of fortified cereal, or half a banana.

    As for B12? Ten percent of the daily value can be found in 1 egg, ¾ cup of milk, 1/6 cup of fortified soymilk, 1 ounce of cheddar chese, 1/5 cup of Cherrios, 1/12 cup of Total cereal, 3 ounces of chicken breast, an ounce of shrimp, or HALF an ounce of lean hamburger meat (remember, a serving is three ounces).

    Snickers Charged is not providing hard-to-come by nutrition.

    Besides, B vitamins in and of themselves do not provide energy.

    The amount of caffeine in this product is also nothing spectacular. A tall latte at Starbucks offers more.

    Drinking a cup of coffee with a regular Snickers basically provides the same caffeine total.

    Now let’s talk taurine.

    Although it is found in seafood, dairy, and meat, it is a non-essential amino acid. In other words, our bodies naturally produce it. There is no need to seek it out in the diet.

    One of its main roles is regulating the cellular transport of sodium and potassium ions.

    There is no scientific body of evidence linking it with central nervous system stimulation.

    Frankly, I’m more than ready for this whole “energy” functional food fad to burn out.


    Say What?: It’s Not Broken. Don’t Fix It

    It is no surprise that soda manufacturers are always looking to increase sales.

    They have introduced new flavors (some, like the repulsive Pepsi Blue, landed with a resounding thud), added vitamins to beverages (Diet Coke Plus), and now the folks at Pepsi — eager to compete against the ever growing energy drink market — are hyping Diet Pepsi Max.

    In case the multi-million dollar national campaign hasn’t been implanted into your brain, Diet Pepsi Max contains ginseng and twice the caffeine of regular Diet Pepsi.

    It’s actually billed as an “invigorating cola.”

    Big whoop.

    In terms of caffeine, you’re talking 46 milligrams per 8 ounces, as opposed to conventional Diet Pepsi’s 24 milligrams.

    Let’s knock down the buzz and put it in perspective: an eight ounce cup of coffee clocks in at approximately 175 milligrams.

    If the whole purpose of this drink is to “boost your energy” (as the press kit claims), and caffeine content is one of its selling points, why does it contain less than the smallest size at Starbucks?

    Ginseng, meanwhile, is included to “focus your mind.” Have I time warped to 1999 when ginseng was the hot new herb on the market?

    This concept of ginseng as a mind-sharpener is completely overhyped and appears to be mostly a placebo effect.

    New York University clinical assistant professor Lisa Sasson is equally annoyed by this new drink.

    This drink is making it seem like it will give you an edge, a boost of energy, but the best way to achieve that is through adequate sleep,” she says.

    Sasson believes sleep is underrated. “Sleep deficit catches up. It absolutely affects health and wellness. Having diet soda with a little caffeine and ginseng doesn’t make up for the fact that you only got four hours of sleep the night before.

    Do you think Diet Pepsi Max will sink or float?


    You Ask, I Answer: Tea, Caffeine, & Hydration

    I know that caffeine is a diuretic. I drink black tea in the morning then switch to herbal in the afternoon. I have convinced myself that since the herbal tea doesn’t have caffeine that it is a good source of water and hydration. Am I thinking clearly in this regard?

    Regarding the black tea – I make a large pot of tea with a single tea bag – pretty much 3 or 4 cups with just one bag. Does this still put me in water deficit or do I get partial credit for the water consumption?

    Always wondered about this – what is the equilibrium point for water and caffeine when it comes to tea?

    And, any thoughts about green tea and water consumption?

    — Quinn Andrus
    American Embassy in Doha, Qatar

    Many people think nutrition deals exclusively with food, but liquid intake also plays a significant role.

    After all, humans can survive for up to six weeks without food, but only a week without water.

    Like solid food, liquids also fall prey to myths. A popular one? That tea is a diuretic.

    The Institute of Medicine released revised hydration guidelines in April of 2004 which concluded there is no evidence that moderate intake of caffeine results in “body water deficits”.

    This is not to say caffeine in and of itself is not a diuretic – it is, in the sense that it increases urine production, especially when consumed in high doses.

    Keep in mind, though, that the same thing can be said about water. You urinate much more on the days you drink ten, rather than five, glasses of water.

    A 2000 study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition concluded that there is no evidence supporting the commonly held belief that caffeine-containing fluids result in dehydration.

    Dehydration has to do with a very simple equation — fluid intake minus fluid loss. If your equation results in a negative, you are dehydrated. Positive? Then you’re fine.

    If you feel thirsty and have a cup of tea, you will not be dehydrating yourself further.

    It has been determined that in order for tea to have a significant diuretic effect and increase heart rate, one must consume approximately 300 milligrams in one sitting (that is equivalent to six cups of tea).

    Additionally, it is also worth noting that, over time, regular tea drinkers develop a tolerance to caffeine.

    Remember, too, that hydration recommendations do not only apply to liquids –- the foods we eat also contain water.

    In conclusion, healthy individuals drinking two or three cups (using three bags) of tea a day — whether black, green, or white — do not have to worry about dehydration.


    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Marc Jacobs

    Marc Jacobs is often on the lips of the world’s leading fashionistas, thanks to his famous collections of men and women’s clothes and accesories.

    Recently, though, it’s his body that has been making headlines. If you haven’t seen for yourself, this is Marc last year, and this is him now.

    In a recent interview, the designer explained his transformation the following way:

    “I’m eating a totally organic diet, which has no flour, no sugar, no dairy, and no caffeine, and I lost weight because of that diet and because of a two and a half hour exercise regimen seven days a week.”

    Let’s decostruct and analyze.

    “I’m eating a totally organic diet…”

    As I have mentioned in the past, while organic food lacks pesticides, it has the same nutritional composition as conventional food. An organic banana does not have more vitamins or minerals than a non-organic one, and organic ice cream has the same amount of calories and added sugar as a conventional type.

    Eating organic in and of itself isn’t always healthy. These days, you can buy heavily processed foods (potato chips, cookies) that, despite being made with 100% organic ingredients, are basically empty calories.

    If we’re talking about weight loss exclusively, eating organically is not very relevant.

    “… which has no flour…”

    None!?!? Whenever someone swears the secret to weight loss is eliminating flour from the diet, I want to hit the roof.

    Even if someone chose to limit their intake of white flour, at least they would be consuming whole grain flours, which offer a variety of nutrients, have high fiber contents, and, in my opinions, are delicious (one of my favorite breakfast foods is a toasted whole grain English muffin topped with peanut butter).

    Yes, many foods made with flour are often highly caloric (i.e: cookies, cakes, pizza), but it is not the flour that’s the culprit. Cookies and cakes contain high amounts of butter and sugar, while the majority of calories in pizza can be attributed to cheese and toppings like sausage and pepperoni.

    It does not help that refined white flour offers almost no fiber (thereby not providing a feeling of satiety quickly), but let’s not forget that flour is one of the oldest ingredients in the world. People around the world have been eating it for thousands of years, long before type 2 diabetes became prevalent and body mass indexes soared.

    Granted, if Marc Jacobs previously ate 3 cups of pasta, 2 brownies, and 9 slices of bread a day, he was obviously getting too many calories from products made with flour, but there is absolutely no need to get rid of it in your diet.

    “… no sugar…”

    Why the absolute elimination? It is true that foods high in added sugar contribute many calories, and the average adult in the United States eats roughly three times the recommended daily amount (120 grams to the 40 stated in dietary guidelines).

    However, putting a packet of sugar in your coffee, enjoying an ice cream cone once a week, or occassionaly sharing a slice of pie with a friend after dinner is not going to make you obese.

    Labeling a single nutrient as “bad” is a common mistake many dieters make. A more realistic (and easier to maintain) goal is to lower the intake of added sugars and increase consumption of natural sources like fresh fruit.

    Again, I don’t know what Marc Jacobs’ diet used to be like. If ice cream sundaes were a daily staple, and his breakfast consisted of two donuts, there was obviously an overload of sugar and calories that needed to be modified.

    “… no dairy…”

    This is completely unrelated to Marc’s body makeover. Unless someone is lactose intolerant, there is no connection between shunning dairy and losing weight.

    Again, it’s important to think about the wide range of foods that fall into the “dairy” category. Putting eight slices of swiss cheese into a sandwich or downing half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after dinner every night is obviously a source of concentrated calories, but healthier options are not hard to find.

    For example, plain, unsweetened yogurt is a tremendously healthy food thanks to its gut-friendly (and immune-system boosting) bacteria.

    Even enjoying an iced latte with skim or low-fat milk on a hot summer day is a great beverage choice, thanks to its significant amounts of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.

    “… and no caffeine…”

    Many health food fanatics shun caffeine, and, frankly, I don’t understand why.

    Countless clinical research trials have concluded there is no link between caffeine consumption and a higher risk of any disease. Well, let me phrase that better — there is no evidence linking moderate caffeine consumption with a higher risk of any disease.

    Besides, if we’re talking about Marc Jacobs’ weight loss and improved fitness, caffeine is irrelevant.

    “… and two and a half hour exercise regimen seven days a week.”

    Bingo! Here is the most important factor behind Marc’s new look. Healthy eating helps, of course. But, someone working out two and a half hours a day, every day (which, to me, sounds excessive and bordering on overkill) is approximately burning an additional 1,200 calories a day!

    Add that to a reduced calorie diet (which doesn’t take much thought if you are removing entire food groups like Marc Jacobs) and, voila, there is your weight loss and added muscle tonification.

    So, at the end of the day, what we have is someone who is consuming less calories, eating less processed food, and performing a lot more physical activity than before. Smart? Yes! Groundbreaking? No.

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