Thursday, November 17, 2016

Say No To Caffeine

Caffeine is a Drug
The Union Health Ministry will soon issue an order that asks beverage manufacturers to carry a mandatory caffeine content warning label prominently on their packaging… “Not recommended for children, pregnant, lactating women or persons sensitive to caffeine.”
Energy drinks, all laden with caffeine, will have to cease using the ‘Energy’ tag and instead realistically be called ‘Caffeinated beverage’. These will carry a warning label stating the following “Not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women, persons sensitive to caffeine and sportspersons”. In addition, the packaging also needs to warn consumers “No more than 2 cans should be consumed per day”.
Why all this fuss? Study after study has shown caffeine to act in the body as an addictive substance does. Just like sugar, nicotine or alcohol. It especially has radical, measurable side effects if consumed by children. Just as in the case of many medications, a reduced dose of caffeine does not mean reduced consequences in young ones. Caffeine’s effects are magnified even at low levels of intake.
OK, so you never give your children coffee. What about soft drinks? Does your teen spend some pocket money on energy drinks or even colas on the way home from school or even at a social event with friends? How about processed coffee flavoured chocolates or milk drinks? Did you think dark chocolate was safe for kids? Not if they consume half a bar… they’re getting too much caffeine.
What are the effects of caffeine consumption in children?
  • Jitteriness (inability to keep still for short periods), trembling hands, difficulty in concentrating
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Upset digestion
  • Dehydration – caffeine is a diuretic which means it causes flushing of water from the body. Definitely no cold drinks on hot summer days.
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

List of processed products that contain caffeine:
. Regular coffee powder
. Instant coffee powder
. Regular Black Tea leaves and tea made from this
. Instant tea mixes or ready-to-drink teas
. Red Bull, normal can contains 112 mg of caffeine
. Red Bull, sugar free – 80 mg of caffeine
. Mountain Dew
. Diet, Zero and regular Coca Cola
. Diet and regular Pepsi
. Thumbs Up
. Coffee-flavoured milk drinks, biscuits and chocolates
. Dark Chocolate
. Coffee liqueurs
. Weight loss supplements (which aren’t meant for children anyway)
Many other products also contain small amounts of caffeine unless labeled ‘Decaffeinated’ (which may be worse, chemically than caffeinated itself). It is always better to stay away from processed foods for this and many more reasons.

Green tea also contains a nominal amount of caffeine. One cup of coffee contains 100-150mg of caffeine; a cup of green tea has only about 25mg of caffeine. However, there are many variables affecting these numbers. For example, the caffeine content of different types of green tea can vary; also a longer brewing period can result in more strongly caffeinated tea.

Green tea contains two other stimulants in addition to caffeine. These substances, theobromine and theophylline, may affect heart rate and the central nervous system in a way somewhat similar to caffeine. These substances are also found in chocolate.

The combined stimulant effects of caffeine, theobromine and theophylline in green tea may be balanced by another substance in the tea, the amino acid L-Theanine which simultaneously calms the nervous system and enhances concentration abilities. So green tea may not be suitable for children below the age of 15 years, however older children may consume in moderation.
How does caffeine affect our family’ bodies? When you consume caffeine, the drug begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues. This excessive neuronal activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, cortisol and nor-epinephrine. This process puts your body in "fight-or-flight" state and when this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion.

On regular consumption of caffeine containing products, your body enters a state of adrenal exhaustion. Your caffeine consumption has simply pushed your adrenal glands so much that they've burned out, making you more and more tired over time. This over production of stress hormones also takes a toll on health, mainly weight gain and under-functioning of several important physiological processes. The heart and liver are also affected.
A study examined Caffeine’s effects at a low dose in youngsters and found that post pubescent teenage boys showed the most vulnerability to Caffeine’s side effects. The Canadian Government’s guidelines for children aged 4-6 years sets a maximum of 45 mg per day. One cup of filtered coffee contains approximately 150 mg of caffeine per 250 ml and the same quantity of Pepsi contains 55 mg. Caffeine is not a ‘necessary nutrient’ by any standards so it can also be present at 0% in your children’s diet.
These are several great incentives to minimise caffeine consumption yourself and in your children. All the more necessary for pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid caffeine. In addition, moderate caffeine consumption in these critical phases increases the risk of miscarriage, difficult labour and finally, can result in low birth-weight babies.
Add to this the fact that stopping caffeine consumption results in withdrawal symptoms, now you know why Caffeine is labelled a ‘DRUG’.
In terms of stimulants, it is tough to keep abreast of the latest chemicals being used in foods and drinks. If you see Guarana (40 times as potent as caffeine and lethal when combined with it), Taurine and Ephedrine on any product, put it down and look for a genuinely natural alternative if absolutely necessary.
Last year, of numerous energy drink related reports at the US National Poison Data System, 50% were in children younger than 6 years! They didn’t go out to a store and buy those drinks….they found them at home. Which brings me to the point…can you really monitor your kids 100% of the time? Don’t leave caffeinated beverages unattended to at home, just like you keep all poisonous chemicals out of reach. These cause harm and children don’t really understand the possible consequences.
Lastly, I stopped drinking coffee regularly a few months ago. Immediately I noticed withdrawal symptoms which subsided after a week. I noticed more clarity of thought, positivity and most importantly, regularized sleep pattern. I do have a cup now and then (and I notice the consequences too) but I mostly drink green and herbal teas when I need them which contribute to my health.

Why Carbonated and Energy drinks are not a good idea besides their caffeine content….They

  • Contain acids which erode teeth enamel besides having many harmful effects on the body
  • Contain sugars which are harmful for metabolism and cause dental caries too.
  • Artificial sweeteners in diet drinks have been linked to everything from cancer to sugar cravings!
  • Contain a chemical cocktail of additives, some of which have been proven to cause cancer
  • Affect children’s delicate metabolism and promote obesity
  • Cause satiety with no nutrients and are consumed instead of nutrient dense, healthy snacks. Therefore, children may exhibit signs of nutrient deficiencies (easy fractures, low energy, etc.)***

Snapshot of the edited version of this article published in the Dec 2015 issue of Parent Circle...

Feedback on the above article.....

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