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So much nutrition information…so little time spent making good decisions

I pay attention to trends in health and nutrition because I am interested in them and as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for over thirty years it is my job. I am always surprised, sometimes amused and occasionally saddened by what I hear on the news on the latest trends to stay healthy.

Caffeine and your diet
Caffeine and your diet
Robin Rood

I listened to a podcast on dietary supplements recently aired on the Diane Rhem Show, at WAMU broadcasting from Washington, DC. Mostly, the discussion included how unregulated this industry is and that there is much money to be made by companies in this area, including $660 million in the US, according to a report by euromonitor.com. Most of the profit is in the Energy Drink sector which showed a 4% increase over last year. I visited the most popular energy drink company’s website and found that even they are having trouble with brand identification, profit encroachment by copycat energy drink companies and fake supplement companies. Interestingly, their website is one way to educate consumers regarding product safety, the role of the FDA and their product and the tremendous amount of misinformation out there.

Recently, my family and I visited Boulder, Colorado home to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Company and on their tour I found out that caffeine from the decaffeination process of tea leaves at their factory are collected and recycled. The caffeine is sold to energy drink companies or other companies who use caffeine as an added ingredient. I understand it is just good business anytime you can make a secondary profit off of something you process out of your primary ingredients. It frustrates me, however, as a health professional, that we take one step forward in trying to educate the public on healthy food choices and lifestyle choices. Just to take a step backward with too many hours at work and bad food choices resulting in exhaustion. To get ourselves out of this we may use short cuts like caffeinated energy drinks to keep us alert when really what is needed is to turn off the computer/phone go home and go to sleep.

People drink caffeinated liquid products including coffee, teas, juices and energy drinks thinking it will keep off the added pounds. We know that energy infused products do not help people lose weight, in fact, there are two ways that caffeine might have a short term effect by a) thermogenesis (burning calories) and b) appetite suppression, but no study has conclusively proven this point. Many of the people who consume these energy products are younger and may not understand the differences between FDA rules regarding food and “vitamin supplements” and prescription drugs. In a recent NBC News report, a teenager from a Lorain, Ohio, a small town on the Westside of Cleveland, died over ingesting too much caffeine. He ordered pure caffeine from the internet and according to reports mixed a teaspoon into a juice drink. The recommended amount of caffeine for a healthy adult is 400 mg which is 1/6 of a teaspoon. This young man took 1 teaspoon, say newspaper reports, and thus experienced seizures and rapid heartbeat until, sadly, died.

Be a smart dietary supplement consumer:

1) Talk to your Doctor- Supplements may not be necessary or even helpful. Supplements can cause serious harm even death, especially, if you already take other medicines. Your physician can best help you with reactions or allergies which often occur, particularly, when the ingredients are not what are stated on the label.

2) Talk to your family-Parents and teens should have a conversation about good diet and nutrition practices that include healthy daily exercise

3) Read the label-product ingredient lists contain chemicals that may be unwanted or unnecessary. Get good information from reliable sources like the Food and Drug Administration website.

4) Talk to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist - eating actual food is the best way to get all the nutrients your body needs. If you have questions about your diet a nutritionist can help!