Advanced Blood Lipid Support

Triglycerides Lowering Diet: Avoid or Limit Caffeine

Caffeine containing foods include coffee, black tea, cola drinks, cocoa, and chocolate. These foods are used almost universally both as stimulants and emotional "treats."

Caffeine belongs to a class of chemicals called methylxanthines, which have a drug-like stimulant effect on the body. In fact, caffeine-containing foods are the most commonly used legal drugs (along with alcohol) in Western societies.

In the United States, many of us are unknowingly raised on caffeine containing foods from our childhood. Hot chocolate is a favorite drink of children, especially during the winter months. Teenagers drink copious amounts of colas and other caffeine containing carbonated drinks, and most children name chocolate as their preferred sweet.

Among adults, coffee use is ubiquitous, with Americans consuming as much as ten pounds of coffee per year. Even more staggering is the statistic that Americans consume a half billion cups of coffee per day (or about two cups per person each day). These figures have decreased by 50 percent over the past forty years when coffee consumption was at its peak.

A single cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, enough to create a mild stimulatory effect. Black tea and green tea contain about half the amount of caffeine that coffee does (about 50 mg per cup). However, these teas also contain theophylline and theobromine, other members of the methylxanthine family which have marked effects on the body.

Theophylline is used as a medication to aid breathing in asthmatics, while theobromine has stimulatory effects on the body. Both tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which can irritate the intestinal mucosa.

Theobromine is also found in the cocoa bean, the natural source of chocolate and cocoa powder used in cooking. Other plant sources of caffeine include mate, kola nuts, and the guarana plant.

Many soft drinks like Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Jolt, are high in caffeine. Numerous over-the-counter medications also contain caffeine as an active ingredient.

Manufacturers of cold remedies like Dristan use caffeine for its stimulatory effect to help counteract the drowsiness caused by antihistamines. It is a main ingredient in over-the-counter drugs like No-Doz because of its ability to increase wakefulness and alertness. It is also used in many pain relief and menstrual relief formulas such as Midol, Excedrin, and Anacin.

As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine increases brain activity when taken in doses of 50 to 100 mg or more per day. This is the amount found in one cup of coffee or black tea.

When used on an occasional basis, a cup of coffee can have a pleasantly stimulating effect. However, many people are addicted to the jolt of energy that caffeine provides and find that they need to take it in large amounts.

Many people must consume significantly more caffeine (two to three cups or even as many as ten cups per day!) to receive the pick-me-up they need to perform optimally during the day.

Besides increasing alertness, caffeine has other physiological effects. It

  • speeds up metabolism, allowing calories to be burned more efficiently
  • stimulates the cardiovascular system, increasing the heart rate, respiratory rate, and elevating blood pressure
  • lowers the blood sugar level, increasing the appetite and the craving for sweets
  • stimulates adrenal function, causing an outpouring of adrenal hormones which make the blood sugar level subsequently rise again
  • has a diuretic and laxative effect, increasing elimination.

Unfortunately, many negatives of the use of caffeinated beverages over time outweigh the initial benefits. Caffeine can cause a host of emotional and physical symptoms that can be quite debilitating.

Caffeine is an addictive chemical, so many people find that they need increasingly larger amounts to keep their energy up. When caffeine use is initially discontinued, people tend to feel very fatigued.

Psychological symptoms that can occur due to hormonal imbalance or deficiency such as anxiety, irritability, and mood swings are worsened with caffeine intake, especially in women who suffer from PMS or menopause.

More than four or five cups of caffeine per day can dramatically increase anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Even small amounts can make susceptible people jittery.

After the initial jolt, people with anxiety symptoms find that caffeine intake makes them more tired.

Caffeine triggers anxiety and panic symptoms because it directly stimulates arousal mechanisms in the body. It

  • raises the brain's level of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that increases alertness, and also
  • triggers sympathetic nervous system activity, which causes fight or flight responses, such as increased pulse, breathing rate, and muscle tension.

Thus, caffeine intake triggers the physiological responses typical of anxiety states.

In addition, caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands, further intensifying nervousness and jitteriness. By over stimulating the adrenals, chronic use of caffeine actually weakens them. Over time, this can lead to persistent fatigue and tiredness.

Besides causing anxiety symptoms, caffeine has a diuretic effect and speeds elimination of many essential minerals and vitamins.

With caffeine intake loss of potassium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B, and vitamin C is accelerated. Deficiency of these nutrients increases anxiety, mood swings, and fatigue. Depletion of B-complex vitamins through caffeine use also interferes with carbohydrate metabolism and healthy liver function, which help to regulate the blood sugar as well as estrogen levels in women.

More Reasons to Avoid or Limit Caffeine

Caffeine also
  • reduces the absorption of iron and calcium from food and supplemental sources, particularly when taken at mealtimes
  • increases blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol; both are risk factors for heart attacks and strokes
  • raises the blood pressure
  • causes the heart to beat faster
  • increases the excitability of the system that conducts electrical impulses through the heart (this can lead to rapid and irregular heartbeat in susceptible people).

Caffeine use directly affects hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach by increasing acid production, which is a risk factor for gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

If you are prone to heartburn or either of these medical conditions, you should eliminate all caffeinated beverages for symptom relief.

Besides triggering acid production, caffeine also stimulates peristalsis of the gastrointestinal tract. This has a laxative effect, producing more frequent bowel movements and even diarrhea in susceptible people. Too loose bowel movements can affect the loss of essential nutrients like B vitamins and minerals that are seen with the frequent use of caffeine.

If you suffer from the side effects of caffeine or find that it aggravates preexisting health conditions you should:

  • cut down its intake substantially to one cup (or glass) per day or, preferably, every other day, or
  • eliminate caffeine entirely from your diet.

Unfortunately, habitual coffee, tea, cola, or cocoa drinkers find that going "cold turkey" with coffee and eliminating it abruptly causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • headaches
  • depression, and
  • fatigue.

Coffee Contains Carcinogenic Acrylamide

Reducing acrylamide, a potentially cancer-causing chemical in coffee has always been a challenge to food industry.

Also found in other foods such as potato chips, french fries, and bread, this carcinogenic compound was the centre of a worldwide health scare in 2002 after a European study found it was formed in some foods that were fried or baked at high temperatures.

However, on the positive note may be the fact that in people given potato chips containing acrylamide more than half of this chemical formation was excreted in their urine, according to a German study.

Boiled, Unfiltered Coffee Raises Cholesterol

Boiled, unfiltered coffee raises total and LDL-“bad” cholesterol because coffee beans contain a terpenoid lipid called cafestol. The amount of cafestol in the cup depends on the brewing method. It is
  • zero for paper-filtered drip coffee, and
  • high in the unfiltered coffee still widely drunk in, for example, in Greece, the Middle East and Turkey.

Intake of large amounts of unfiltered coffee markedly raises serum cholesterol and has been associated with coronary heart disease in Norway.

A shift from unfiltered, boiled coffee to filtered coffee has contributed significantly to the decline in serum cholesterol in Finland.

    Source: Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation, World Health Organization, Geneva 2003.

What About Decaf?

Decaffeinated coffee or "decaf" is coffee that has had most of the caffeine removed. Unfortunately, it has its own problems:
  • Studies prove it raises LDL-"bad" cholesterol levels.
  • It promotes fat buildup in the liver.

And decaf is not "nocaf." Each cup contains about 7 mg of caffeine. Most decaf is made using solvents such as methylene chloride, which are poisonous.

Drinking Decaf Coffee May Reduce Risk of Diabetes?

Over the last couple of weeks (June 2006), the media has been running with the story that high coffee consumption (6 or more cups per day!) can cut the risk of diabetes in women by some 22 percent. This confirms a Harvard School of Public Health study two years ago that showed a 50 percent reduction for men.

But why drink coffee?

You can drop your diabetes risk to close to zero, by

  • merely changing your diet to minimize consumption of high glycemic foods and
  • consuming protective food supplements.

But even more important. Although coffee may help with diabetes, it carries a slew of health risks in its own right.

How to Wean Yourself Off Coffee?

If you have the coffee habit you should consider quitting it by cutting down the amount you drink gradually, over a period of weeks, and increasing your daily water intake to keep your body well hydrated.

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Unfortunately, most people decide to eliminate coffee from their diet cold turkey. They forget that fact that caffeine is an addictive drug. If you don't avoid this common mistake, you will be suffering needlesly.

Here are some tips to reduce the negative effects of caffeine withdrawal:

  • Use organic coffee. Drinking organic coffee might reduce or eliminate your exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers with which “regular” coffee is heavily sprayed.
  • Drink decaffeinated coffee. Yes, try "Swiss Water Process" decaf. The "Swiss Water Process" is a patented, non-chemical method of decaffeination, and is the best choice. Most of the major brands are chemically decaffeinated, even if it says "naturally decaffeinated" on the container.
  • Avoid sugar and milk or cream. By adding these substances to your coffee, you just compound the detrimental health effects.
  • Only use unbleached filters, if you prefer a "drip" coffee maker. The common bright white filters are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted during the brewing process.

Speak to Andrzej J. Mierzejewski, RHN on lowering high triglycerides naturally with Triglyceride Reduction TGs Formula

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