I am certainly not one of those people who think coffee, tea, and other caffeinated products are the spawn of Satan and destroying civilization as we know it. Despite decades of research, scientists have yet to find any real, wide spread, detrimental effects caused by moderate consumption of coffee and tea. Quite the contrary, in fact, with studies in the last few years turning up some surprising health benefits, including lowering the risk for some kinds of cancers, improved mental function, etc.
There are some issues with caffeinated beverages/foods, of course. In higher doses it can cause heart rhythm problems, increase blood pressure, sleep issues, etc. Some people are more sensitive than others and should avoid it entirely. But for the general population, moderate consumption is just fine and can be benificial.
On the other hand, manufacturers are shoving caffeine into damn near everything these days, and even worse, these products are being targeted at teenagers and even children, despite manufacturers claims to the contrary.
Public and FDA pressure has forced Wrigley’s to at least temporarily halt sales of it’s caffeinated gum, despite it’s claims it does not market to kids and restricts sales to people over the age of 25 (?? Really? Just how do they do that? Retailers are really going to demand ID from anyone buying gum? Yeah, sure they are…)
The problem is that while caffeine is generally considered safe, there are problems with it. In high doses it can kill. And since so many products are laced with the stuff these days, how, for example, does a 14 year old know how much caffeine he/she is actually taking in? Soda is laced with the stuff. Energy drinks, which an increasingly large number of kids seem addicted to, have large amounts of it. Flavored coffee based beverages are becoming increasingly popular with young people. It’s entirely too easy for someone to become overdosed on the stuff.
What irritates me is that the manufacturers know this isn’t right. They know what the health risks are. But they don’t care. They don’t care about you, about me, about anyone. All they care about is making a profit, even if it’s at the expense of the people they sell their product to.
Things get a bit silly in the ‘low sodium’ labeling arena. I was looking at a can of Mountain Dew the other day and noted that at the top of the can, above the ingredients listing, in bold face, were printed the words “low in sodium”.
I just stopped and stared at it for a moment. Low sodium? Really? On a product laced with chemicals, caffeine, corn syrup and artificial dyes and I don’t know what all else, and you’re proud of it being ‘low sodium’?
When I see articles like this I always wonder how people can eat this stuff, only to realize that I have stuff like this in the cupboard as well. Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t really know what is all in our food.
It also makes me wonder about the ‘breakfast programs’ that are being pushed in public schools. Most of them rely on pre-packaged, processed foods like granola bars, pop-tarts, etc. that I wouldn’t consider to be a suitable breakfast at all, and sometimes shouldn’t even be considered to be ‘food’. But they can’t really serve anything else because in the never ending quest to cut costs, cut labor and cut taxes the schools don’t give the food service department the money to serve a real breakfast.
One of these days I’m going to have to write about what really goes on in school food service.
Okay, can we talk? What’s up with you people who buy this stuff? Don’t try to tell me you don’t. I’ve been in Macy’s, Williams-Sonoma and the other high-end artsy fartsy places that sell this stuff. I see how much you pay for it.
And I got to ask; What the hell is wrong with you people? $600 for a blender? $500 for a juicer? Automatic tea strainer lifters? Really? Digital touch controls on a food processor? $800 for a food processor? Are you serious? A 400 food dehydrator?
My dehydrator cost me $70 on sale at Fleet Farm. I’ve had it for 10 years now and it works just fine, thank you. My blender cost me under $30 a quarter of a century ago and it’s still going strong. My food processor set me back a whopping $48.
A $250 tea maker? Seriously? $250 for a gadget that lifts the basket out of the water? Ever hear of this new thing they call fingers?
Now I freely admit I’m a gadget nut. I mean I’ve got a Hello Kitty toaster that makes imprints of that dopey cat on the bread, for heaven’s sake. But I only paid $17 for the thing and there were other considerations like having to keep up my reputation for being amusingly but not scarily nuts and the thing does a great job on bagels.
But $249.99 for a tea strainer lifter?
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months you’ve probably heard about the infamous “Bloomberg Law” where New York City attempted to ban the sale (sometimes) at retail outlets (some of them) of sugar sweetened drinks (again, some of them) of more than 16 oz. in the city, and the striking down of the law the day before it was to go into effect.
The reason why they wanted to do this is pretty clear: We’re fat. We’re really, really, really fat. We’re getting Type II diabetes at unprecedented rates, along with all of the other diseases associated with obesity. If current trends continue, just treating obesity related diabetes and other obesity caused illness is going cost us so much money that health care costs are going to pretty much bankrupt us.
Everybody whines that we have to do something! Do it now!
But do what? What I’ve seen so far hasn’t been a serious attempt at curbing obesity. What I’ve seen so far is a lot of people looking for a scapegoat. They want a fast, easy answer. Do this and our kids will be sleek and slim. Take this pill and you won’t get fat. Eat this magic food and the pounds will melt away.
And all the while we’re chugging down our 36oz sodas, munching our fat laced beef sticks, pigging out on deep fried this, chocolate coated that…
The libertarians and conservatives love to babble on and on about things like ‘personal responsibility’ and the ‘nanny state’, and how having the government regulate damn near everything infringes on our rights. And they have a valid point.
But at the same time the government has a responsibility to curb behaviors and activities that effect society as a whole. So at what point is it the responsibility of the government to step in and say “That’s enough of that. This is hurting people. Not just you, but a lot of people around you. You can’t do that any more.”
Personal responsibility is a wonderful thing. People should be held accountable for their actions. But what do you do when people act against their own best interests, when they’re out of control and their actions, and the results of those actions, are sucking up so much of society’s resources that it threatens to disrupt our entire health care system?
Libertarians and conservatives come along and say “You can’t do that. People need to be responsible for their own actions. The ‘nanny state’ can’t regulate every aspect of our lives. It is an unwarranted intrusion into our personal freedom.”
Yep, it is. But their argument is totally false because this is something we do all the time. Every single law on the books regulates some aspect of our lives. Every one of them. We don’t allow ten year olds to buy a gun. We don’t allow just anyone to walk in off the street and buy explosives. I can’t turn the farm into a toxic waste dump. You can’t drive 120 mph through a school zone. I can’t punch you in the face no matter how much you annoy me.
The question is at what point do we admit that ‘personal responsibility’ isn’t working, and the government has to step in to protect us from ourselves.
Ran into this one over at Mother Jones this morning. I have to admit that I am subject to the occasional mac n cheese feeding frenzy myself, but I’m guilty of using the ‘deluxe’ version that has the little foil pouch with the glow-in-the-dark ‘cheese sauce’.
If you have a few minutes I wish you’d go over to Mother Jones and take a peek at this article. It isn’t the actual conclusions that are all that interesting, it’s that it goes into some detail about exactly why doing studies about the effects of our life style on our health are so very hard to do and why similar studies often yield results that are conflicting and confusing.
The problem is that you can’t study a single factor in the life of a group of people in isolation.
One example is the coffee and tea study results that have been coming out recently that contradict the results of earlier studies. Once upon a time, consumption of tea and coffee were linked to a host of different health issues, high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, cancer and other diseases. Modern studies have contradicted almost all of those past claims, and in fact seem to prove that consumption of coffee and tea and even the “evil” caffeine so many health food promoters claim to be the creation of Satan himself, are not only not that bad for us, but actually beneficial as long as you don’t go overboard.
The problem was that the earlier studies didn’t take into account other risky behaviors by the people in the study, such as smoking, diet, exercise, etc. In some of the studies, the adverse health effects they were turning up were directly related to smoking and tobacco use because a lot of coffee drinkers also smoked.
So go read the article and you’ll get a good idea of how difficult it can be to conduct studies like this.
Got bored and was scrounging around on the inter-web-network-link thingie and ran across this over at NPR.
Note : If you want to see the actual study this article is based on, you can find it here: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/44/1/15.full
I really don’t know why they didn’t include a link to the actual study, but at least they gave the name and publication so it was possible to track down the study itself. I’ve seen so many bad studies, so many ‘news stories’ based on anecdotal evidence and just outright lies that I’m afraid I don’t believe anything I read any more unless I can read the actual science behind it. I only just skimmed over the study itself (I’m still working on my first cup of coffee and wading through statistics requires a higher level of caffeine than I have at the moment) and it does seem to support the article in Mother Earth.
The commercially grown vegetables, fruits and grains that we are eating today are significantly less nutritious than these foods were 100 years ago, or even just 30 years ago.
I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Grist. They tend to go over the top with a lot of their articles, and they certainly aren’t exactly what I would call “scientifically rigorous” when it comes to investigating their stories.
But that being said, being in a family that includes a couple of doctors, a scattering of nurses, a medical researcher or two, and a few registered dietitians, I pretty much knew all of this stuff already, and yeah, it’s pretty damned scary sometimes. A lot of the ‘food’ you buy off the shelf at the local grocery store has little in common with the real item. Next time you pick up a box of macaroni and cheese, read the label carefully.
It isn’t just the stuff that’s on the label, either. How the product was processed can be an issue as well, since the processors use chemicals and techniques in the processing that may remain in the end product, but which are never listed on the ingredients listings.