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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Coffee (or is it caffeine?) again!

I recently came across a front-page article in a New Jersey newspaper (The Bergen Record, Monday, July 9, 2007) by a staff writer, entitled “Coffee drinks hook kids – Combination of caffeine, calories concerns nutritionists.” This publication is timely as it points out how caffeine-laden soft drinks and coffee drinks have affected the nutrition of our kids. However, like so many other articles on coffee, this one mixes and confuses coffee with caffeine. It’s this kind of writing that has not helped consumers sort out what is good and what is bad about a traditional beverage (coffee or tea) versus a chemical drug substance (caffeine). See my comments on coffee and caffeine from March/April of 2000 and coffee or caffeine.

Over the past several decades, researchers investigating the effects of coffee seldom paid much attention to what exactly they were investigating. Most had presumed caffeine was the sole active ingredient of coffee so they never paid attention to the other active components in coffee besides caffeine. So, when they used coffee or caffeine in their studies and reported their findings, one could never be sure what they actually used or meant – coffee (the bean) or caffeine (the drug). The two are not the same! And in order to find out for sure whenever an author (like the one of the present article) says caffeine, he doesn’t mean coffee, one has to read all the materials the author has used for the article. This, in turn, would inevitably lead to other publications on which these materials were based. A very daunting task indeed!

The fact is that brewed coffee is a natural drink with all its complements of phytochemicals that include caffeine (stimulant), trigonelline (hypoglycemic, could be useful in diabetes), polyphenols (antioxidant), polysaccharides (may help the immune system), and B vitamin (e.g., niacin), among others. In contrast, caffeine, when added to soft drinks or so-called “energy drinks,” does not have any complementary redeeming qualities from coffee to go with it. So, when kids drink sugary “energy drinks,” all they get is a jolt from caffeine along with empty calories. Top this off with a couple of hamburgers and a big pile of French fries for lunch or dinner, they might have to seek ‘heartburn’ relief with nationally advertised drugs. That’s the current national scene in which kids imbibe caffeine and sugar and get wired, fat, or downright sick, while corporations reap huge financial profits. That’s free American enterprise working for you!

1 comment:

The Therapist! said...

You got some interesting info on your site. I will check back for more!