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    Archive for the ‘phosphoric acid’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Tea – How Healthy? And How Much?

    tea-bagsI looked up tea on your blog after reading the post about alcohol and liquid calories.

    I’ve gathered that tea is calorie free (with nothing added), so it’s probably better than loading up on diet pop?

    Kind of an idiotic question, but can you drink too much tea?  What is the upper limit?

    — Kate Redfern
    Via Facebook

    Tea is indeed intrinsically free of calories, but it offers a lot of other wonderful components — especially when it comes to unique polyphenols and antioxidants.

    And, unlike diet soda, it doesn’t have the potential to leach calcium from your bones.

    Can you drink too much tea (I assume the real question here is “can too much tea be unhealthy?”)?  Nope.

    Unlike coffee, where very high amounts are linked to unpleasant side effects and even health consequences, health benefits of tea are seen even when seven or eight cups are consumed per day.

    In fact, a small group of health benefits are only seen when tea intake is that high!

    PS: If you currently drink one or two cups of tea a day, there is no reason to squeeze five more in.  Most of tea’s health benefits can be enjoyed with small amounts a day, as long as it is consumed consistently (almost daily).


    You Ask, I Answer: Soda & Calcium

    At 24, I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia.

    I know you’ve said that soda can cause calcium to be leached from your bones because of the phosphoric acid in it, but does this apply to all carbonated beverages?

    What about sparkling water?

    I want to make sure I’m getting enough calcium from my diet.

    — Sarah (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    As you state, sodas can cause calcium to be leached from bones due to the presence of phosphoric acid (if this is news to you, please see this post for details).

    Not all carbonated beverages contain phosphoric acid; you’ll usually find that particular ingredient in cola beverages (rather than lemon-lime sodas or club sodas).

    In any case, it is always wise to take a peek at the ingredient list for reassurance.

    Keep in mind that phosphoric acid in soda calcium leaching is only a problem if your calcium consumption is insufficient.

    Someone who meets their daily calcium requirement and drinks one can of soda a day is in a very different — and much less worrisome — situation from someone who only gets 40 percent of their daily calcium requirement and drinks three cans of soda on a daily basis.


    You Ask, I Answer: Cow Or Soy Milk?

    When it comes to milk, is soy milk better for kids than regular cow’s milk?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    I don’t consider either “better” than other. This ultimately depends on personal preference and a few other factors.

    I don’t have a problem with children drinking skim or low-fat milk, provided that they aren’t lactose intolerant, of course.

    What disappoints me is that so many schools offer chocolate milk to children (and label it a “healthy” alternative simply because it contains calcium).

    A single cup contains a tablespoon of added sugar. It’s fine as a treat, but I don’t find it to be the optimal beverage to accompany a meal on a daily basis.

    Unfortunately, the majority of milk in the United States — chocolate or not — in the United States is produced by cows that chow on corn all day long and are injected with antibiotics and growth hormones.

    Milk in and of itself is a nutritious beverage, though, providing high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, phosphorus, and potassium.

    I would highly recommend opting for organic, grass-fed varieties.

    Soy milk is a perfectly fine alternative.

    Most varieties are fortified with vitamin D and provide a good amount of calcium, protein, and potassium.

    I would be more concerned with what they’re eating along with that cold glass of (dairy or soy) milk.

    *UPDATE* Thank you to reader “gd” for pointing out that vanilla and chocolate flavored soy milks also contain quite a bit of added sugar.

    I erroneously assumed everyone reads minds and would telepathically infer I was only referring to regular soy milk in this post.

    So, if you are opting for soy milk, I suggest going for plain or unsweetened varieties.


    You Ask, I Answer: Osteoporosis

    I am a 56 year old woman diagnosed with osteoporosis.

    I would like to know the best way to incorporate calcium [in]to my diet.

    — Maria Barbosa

    Before I answer your specific question, let’s briefly discuss the larger issue.

    Osteoporosis — a condition in which bone tissue deteriorates and bone density decreases, thereby weakening the skeletal system (see accompanying illustration) — is especially prevalent among women.

    In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 10 million adults currently live with osteoporosis, and an astounding 75 percent of them are women.

    In case you are wondering about the difference between these two groups, a decline in estrogen at menopause is associated with decreased bone density.

    Men, meanwhile, are protected by testosterone. Although testosterone levels decrease with age, they are still at a sufficient range to guard against the onset of osteoporosis.

    Since osteoporosis is “symptom free” (you don’t feel weak, bloated, tired, or get headaches), it is completely feasible to develop it and be completely unaware of this for years.

    To discuss how osteoporosis starts – and how to make the necessary changes once diagnosed with it – let’s go back to the beginning.

    Our bones are a vast storage unit for a handful of minerals, especially calcium.

    It’s important to have a strong reserve of calcium because we lose it on a daily basis.

    All bodily excretions (sweat, urine, and feces) contain calcium, and our nails require it for production and growth.

    Calcium is also needed for a variety of bodily functions (i.e.: forming blood clots).

    Consume adequate amounts of this mineral every day and you easily replenish any losses.

    If calcium intake is insufficient, that’s where the problem begins.

    The body, desperate for calcium, doesn’t find any circulating in the blood and goes to the trusted storage unit for some.

    In turn, bones are demineralized and broken down.

    Imagine this happening on a daily basis for ten, twenty, even thirty years!

    By the time you hit the fifty or sixty year-old mark, your bones are — not surprisingly — quite fragile and acutely demineralized.

    Although many people automatically equate osteoporosis with calcium, there are other factors to keep in mind.

    A crucial one is Vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium (this is why you often see calcium supplements also containing Vitamin D).

    As I have explained before, Vitamin D is not found in many foods (the best source is actually the sun).

    If you live in an area of the world that does not receive much sunlight for five or so months of the year, or if your dermatologist has strongly recommended you always use UV-proof skin lotions, you run the risk of being significantly deficient.

    The solution? Reach for a daily supplement! Aim for 1,000 International Units a day.

    Protein also plays a role in preventing osteoporosis.

    Both sides of the spectrum – not getting enough or getting too much – are problematic.

    A lack of protein in the diet will hinder the body’s ability to repair and rebuild bone tissue.

    An excess, meanwhile, results in urine outputs with higher calcium levels than normal.

    Phosphoric acid is also worth paying attention to. Found in regular and diet sodas, it disturbs the body’s calcium balance mechanism, often resulting in calcium being leeched from bones.

    Sodium – a mineral the majority of people in the United States overconsume– also plays a role in osteoporosis.

    High sodium intakes increase calcium losses through the urine (a result of the body attempting to keep various mineral levels proportional).

    With all that in mind, how can you be proactive about lowering your risk of developing osteoporisis (and maintaing what bone mass you do have at the time you are diagnosed with it)?

    From a nutritional standpoint, make sure you get sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin D and that you do not surpass maximum recommendations for sodium and protein.

    Aim for 800 – 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day.

    To answer your question, all dairy products are a great source, as are tofu, almonds, oats, and any fortified products.

    Spinach, however, is one food that gets way too much credit.

    Although it offers substantial amounts of various nutrients, don’t put it in your osteoporosis defense kit.

    Spinach offers significant amounts of calcium, but also contains high levels of oxalate, a compound that binds to calcium and greatly reduces its absorbability in our gastrointestinal tract.

    The good news is that oxalates only affect calcium absorption of the food they are in.

    So, if you’re having a spinach and tofu stirfry, only the dark leafy green vegetable’s calcium will be practically rendered useless.

    Aside from nutrition, one of the best things you can do to minimize your risk of developing osteoporosis (and prevent further bone demineralization if you have already been diagnosed) is weight-bearing exercises.

    This does not mean you need to necessarily start lifting heavy weights or buildmuscles. It’s really just about performing physical activity in which the muscles have to resist weight.

    Remember, bone strengthens up when stressed. Hence, challenging it with weights on a regular basis helps to maintain — and even increase — its density.

    As you can see, there are helpful steps you can take at any stage of the game. There is no reason to give in to osteoporosis.


    You Ask, I Answer: Diet Soda

    I was debating [with a colleague] about whether diet soda is bad for you.

    I mentioned some folks believe the artificial sweeteners in them may be cancer-causing, but that it’s a step up from guzzling sugary sodas every day.

    She said something about the acid in the soda not being that bad for you, because our stomachs are already acidic.

    But I always thought the phosphoric acid in the soda wasn’t so good for the tum tum.

    What’s your verdict?

    — Judith (last name withheld)
    (location withheld)

    The problem with all soda — diet or not — is the phosphoric acid in it.

    Not so much because it’s bad for your stomach (it isn’t), but because of its effect on our calcium levels.

    Our bodies like to stay in balance (you might remember the term “homeostasis” from your high school biology class). Calcium and phosphate, in particular, are two minerals that are actually good buddies. In fact, they’re inseparable.

    If one’s level in our blood goes up, the other one wants to go up as well. So when you drink that can of diet soda, your body’s phosphate levels rise. Calcium sees this, and says, “Wait a second, I want to go up, too!”

    If you are like most people in the United States, your calcium intake isn’t as high as it needs to be, meaning you don’t have much available calcium floating around. So in order to up its levels, calcium, eager to join phosphate, starts leeching extra calcium from the first place where it can find it – our bones.

    Let me be very clear here – if your calcium intake is adequate, the occasional diet soda is not going to make you develop osteoporosis.

    But, in looking at teenagers, for instance (many of whom are already calcium deficient and on top of that are guzzling down two or three sodas a day) this is a huge problem.

    Phosphoric acid is also responsible for wearing away enamel (a protective layer) on our teeth, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay.

    I don’t see anything wrong with having a soda here or there as a treat (i.e.: once or twice a month), but definitely take issue with soda being someone’s main source of fluids on a daily — or almost-daily — basis.


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