By Rachel Berman, RD Director of Nutrition at CalorieCount.com
Just as the new school year is getting underway and students everywhere are looking for a pick-me-up to stay focused in class, the NY State Attorney General announced his investigation of energy drinks and the safety of their caffeine levels. You might remember a couple of years ago when the USDA forced removal of products from the marketplace, such as Four Loko, which added caffeine to alcohol. They deemed it unsafe since caffeine masks the depressant qualities of alcohol and people who mix the two are more likely to binge drink, according to studies.
However, it seems like there’s a new product appearing every week touting its ability to keep you awake and energized. Energy drinks are a billion-dollar industry, the fastest growing segment of the beverage market, and they generally contain caffeine, other plant based supplements, simple sugars and additives to achieve their goal. According to the CDC, about one-third of teenage Americans consume energy drinks. But the problem is that the drinks are considered dietary supplements and therefore aren’t tightly regulated by the FDA like other foods and beverages. So can energy drinks be bad for your health?
Cap the caffeine
The caffeine content listed on energy drinks doesn’t usually exceed the recommended 400 mg per day for adult. However, if you’re downing more than one or mixing with coffee, soda, and other caffeinated beverages, you might be getting more than you need. The FDA recognizes caffeine as a drug and regulates the amount found in carbonated soft drinks, but not in energy drinks. Too much caffeine can cause increased heart beat, interrupted sleep, irritability, and nervousness. In addition, some studies have found that high caffeine content in energy drinks results in irregular heart beat and increased blood pressure.
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Vitamins and supplements have long been tied to health benefits and disease prevention, but a new study from Consumer Reports would suggests otherwise, saying there’s a dark side to natural supplements we may not realize. The study highlights supplement-related incidents including adverse reactions, misleading advertising, and even an increase in diseases that some pills claim to treat.
Some of the most worrisome news is that not only are some supplements not all-natural as they claim to be, but they could also be laced with prescription drugs. These prescriptions can interfere with other drugs and cause kidney failure, a stroke, or even death.
Most supplements recalled had the same ingredients as prescriptions marketed for weight loss, bodybuilding, and sexual enhancement. Consumers wanting a natural alternative to Viagra, for example, may be buying an herbal remedy that’s spiked with the same active ingredient used in Viagra – sildenafil.
This problem recently showed up in the 2012 Olympic games when bodybuilder Hysen Palaku was barred from competing after testing positive for steroids. The Albanian said he only took herbal supplements and was unaware they contained a drug.
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Be honest, do you read nutrition labels? I have to admit I read them more and more in a quest for better health. I try to pay attention to sodium, sugar, fat and calories and I’m especially focused on the ingredient list. These labels hold the key to the ingredients within the foods we eat and are often more telling of the quality of food than the often confusing nutrition facts.
As Americans we don’t follow the metric system, so understanding the number of grams of various elements in our food can prove difficult; for some it can make the information downright useless. To make that label even more relevant, there is a petition circulating at Change.org requesting that the FDA add the number of teaspoons of sugar to the “per serving” section on nutrition labels. They currently have 117 of 18,000 desired signatures.
Implementing this idea can help greatly with understanding just how much sugar is in the foods you are considering. Added sugar is one of many catalysts in the current levels of obesity we see throughout the country.
To see how helpful this change might be, I asked our resident registered dietician Mary Hartley if reflecting sugar measurements in teaspoons would be beneficial. “Yes it would be helpful if added sugar were separated from naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk and some vegetables,” Mary said. When asked if seeing the sugar content in grams can make a difference in curbing obesity, Mary stated, “Obesity is a multifaceted, complex problem. I would not expect any single intervention to make a big difference, although many small actions do add up. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.”
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UDATED August 23, 2012: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified the southern Indiana farm responsible for producing the cantaloupes linked to the deadly salmonella outbreak that has reportedly infected 178 people in 21 states. Chamberlain Farms of Owensville has been named as one potential source for the outbreak that has killed two people and hospitalized 62 more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, the farm has voluntarily recalled its melons, although the FDA nor the farm have released any information regarding the cause of the contamination.
Another product recall has happened, so be on the look out for fruit you may have purchased on July 15 or later. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to consumers to avoid eating whole cantaloupes from Burch Equipment LLC, of Faison, North Carolina, because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono).
What You Need to Know
The company shipped 580 cases of whole cantaloupes on July 15 that were delivered to retail stores in New York, Maine, and possibly other states. If you have a cantaloupe with a red label and the words “Burch Farms” and referencing PLU #4319, discard it immediately.
The cantaloupes tested positive for L. mono during sampling carried out in New York by the USDA Microbiological Data Program. Following the positive result, on July 28, Burch Equipment issued a voluntary recall of 580 cases of cantaloupes. As of yet, no illnesses have been reported that would be linked to the cantaloupes.
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It’s that time of the week again, the end of it! There is nothing we look forward to more than the weekend. But before we dive in to weekend mode take some time for a dose of healthy news from DIR and our friends. We also have yummy recipes for you to try this weekend!
Eat Like an Olympian With These 3 Olympic-Inspired Smoothies
The Olympic Kitchen shared a few smoothies recipes exclusively with Diets in Review. The smoothies are a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fat and can be sweetened to your liking! Hurry and try the smoothies before the 2012 London Games begin!
Qsymia Approval Delivers Most Potent Weight Loss Drug on the Market
The FDA approved a new weight loss drug this week, the second this summer. The diet pill is the most potent weight loss drug on the market. The creators of Qsymia claim that just one pill a day will help obese individuals lose 10% of their body weight.
The Ultimate Pushups Guide
We created this guide featuring 8 different push-up styles featuring instructions and pictures to help form the perfect pushup no matter how beginner or advanced you are.
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