November 2008

Caffeine myth or caffeine fact? It’s not always easy to know. Chances are you have some real misperceptions about caffeine. For starters, do you know the most common sources of caffeine? Well, maybe two of the sources aren’t too hard to name — coffee and tea leaves. But did you know kola nuts and cocoa beans are also included among the most common caffeine sources? And do you know how much caffeine content can vary from food to food? Turns out it’s quite a lot actually, depending on the type and serving size of a food or beverage and how it’s prepared.

Caffeine content can range from as much as 160 milligrams in some energy drinks to as little as 4 milligrams in a 1-ounce serving of chocolate-flavored syrup. Even decaffeinated coffee isn’t completely free of caffeine. Caffeine is also present in some over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications, and diet pills. These products can contain as little as 16 milligrams or as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine. In fact, caffeine itself is a mild painkiller and increases the effectiveness of other pain relievers.

Want to know more? Read on. WebMD has examined some of the most common myths about caffeine and gathered the facts to shed some light on those myths.

Caffeine Myth No. 1: Caffeine Is Addictive
This one has some truth to it, depending on what you mean by “addictive.” Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way addictive drugs do. (Although after seeing your monthly spending at the coffee shop, you might disagree!)

If you stop taking caffeine abruptly, you may have symptoms for a day or more, especially if you consume two or more cups of coffee a day. Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine include:

depressed mood
difficulty concentrating
No doubt, caffeine withdrawal can make for a few bad days. However, caffeine does not cause the severity of withdrawal or harmful drug-seeking behaviors as street drugs or alcohol. For this reason, most experts don’t consider caffeine dependence an addiction.

Caffeine Myth No. 2: Caffeine Is Likely to Cause Insomnia
Your body quickly absorbs caffeine. But it also gets rid of it quickly. Processed mainly through the liver, caffeine has a relatively short half-life. This means it takes about four to five hours, on average, to eliminate half of it from your body. After eight to 10 hours, 75% of the caffeine is gone. For most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning won’t interfere with sleep at night.

Consuming caffeine later in the day, however, can interfere with sleep. If you’re like most people, your sleep won’t be affected if you don’t consume caffeine at least six hours before going to bed. Your sensitivity may vary, though, depending on your metabolism and the amount of caffeine you regularly consume. People who are more sensitive may not only experience insomnia but also have caffeine side effects of nervousness and gastrointestinal upset.

Caffeine Myth No. 3: Caffeine Increases Risk for Conditions Such as Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, and Cancer
Moderate amounts of caffeine — about 300 milligrams, or three cups of coffee — apparently cause no harm in most healthy adults. Some people are more vulnerable to its effects, however. That includes such people as those who have high blood pressure or are older. Here are the facts:

Osteoporosis and caffeine. At high levels (more than 744 milligrams/day), caffeine may increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine. But recent studies suggest it does not increase your risk for bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium lost from drinking one cup of coffee by adding just two tablespoons of milk.
However, research does show some links between caffeine and hip fracture risk in older adults. Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you’re an older woman, discuss with your doctor whether you should limit your daily caffeine intake to 300 milligrams or less.

Cardiovascular disease and caffeine. A slight, temporary rise in heart rate and blood pressure is common in those who are sensitive to caffeine. But several large studies do not link caffeine to higher cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you already have high blood pressure, though, have a discussion with your doctor about your caffeine intake. You may be more sensitive to its effects. Also, more research is needed to tell whether caffeine increases the risk for stroke in people with high blood pressure.
Cancer and caffeine. Reviews of 13 studies involving 20,000 people revealed no relationship between cancer and caffeine. In fact, caffeine may even have a protective effect against certain cancers.

Caffeine Myth No. 4: Caffeine Is Harmful for Women Trying to Get Pregnant
Many studies show no links between low amounts of caffeine (a cup of coffee per day) and any of the following:

trouble conceiving
birth defects
premature birth
low birth rate
At the same time, for pregnant women or those attempting pregnancy, the March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s largely because in limited studies, women consuming higher amounts of caffeine had an increased risk for miscarriage.

Caffeine Myth No. 5: Caffeine Has a Dehydrating Effect
Caffeine can make you need to urinate. However, the fluid you consume in caffeinated beverages tends to offset the effects of fluid loss when you urinate. The bottom line is that although caffeine does act as a mild diuretic, studies show drinking caffeinated drinks doesn’t actually cause dehydration.

Caffeine Myth No. 6: Caffeine Harms Children, Who, Today, Consume Even More Than Adults
As of 2004, children ages 6 to 9 consumed about 22 milligrams of caffeine per day. However, energy drinks that contain caffeine are becoming increasingly popular.

Studies suggest that up to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is safe for kids. But is it smart? Many kids are sensitive to caffeine, developing temporary anxiety or irritability, with a “crash” afterwards. Also, most caffeine that kids drink is in sodas, energy drinks, or sweetened teas, all of which have high sugar content. These empty calories put kids at higher risk for obesity.

Even if the caffeine itself isn’t harmful, caffeinated drinks are generally not good for kids.

Caffeine Myth No. 7: Caffeine Can Help You Sober Up
Actually, research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up. For example, people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they’re OK behind the wheel. But the truth is reaction time and judgment are still impaired. College kids who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to have car accidents.

Caffeine Myth No. 8: Caffeine Has No Health Benefits
Caffeine has few proven health benefits. But the list of caffeine’s potential benefits is interesting. Any regular coffee drinker may tell you that caffeine improves alertness, concentration, energy, clear-headedness, and feelings of sociability. You might even be the type who needs that first cup o’ Joe each morning before you say a single word. Scientific studies support these subjective findings. One French study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who consumed caffeine.

Other possible benefits include improved immune function from caffeine’s anti-inflammatory effects and help with allergic reactions due to caffeine’s ability to reduce concentrations of histamines. Some people’s asthma also appears to benefit from caffeine. These research findings are intriguing, but still need to be proven.

Limited evidence suggests caffeine may also reduce the risk of the following:

Parkinson’s disease
liver disease
colorectal cancer
type 2 diabetes
Despite its potential benefits, don’t forget that high levels of caffeine may have adverse effects. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks.

WebMD Medical Reference

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What happen to the love or dream? Damn
King Obama Merchandise
By ERRIN HAINES, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA – Zealous guardians of his words and his likeness, the family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is demanding a share of the proceeds from the sudden wave of T-shirts, posters and other merchandise depicting the civil rights leader alongside Barack Obama.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr., King’s nephew and head of the nonprofit King Center in Atlanta, said the estate is entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees — maybe even millions.
“Some of this is probably putting food on people’s plates. We’re not trying to stop anybody from legitimately supporting themselves,” he said, “but we cannot allow our brand to be abused.”
But while Obama’s election as the first black president may be the fulfillment of King’s dream and could yield a big windfall for his estate, policing his image and actually collecting any fees could prove to be a legal nightmare because of the great proliferation of unauthorized King-Obama paraphernalia, much of it sold by street vendors.
King’s writings, likeness and voice are considered intellectual property, and almost any use — from graduate thesis papers to TV documentaries — are subject to approval by his estate, now administered by his surviving children, Martin Luther King III, Dexter King and the Rev. Bernice King. (Because Obama is an elected official, his words and image are in the public domain and can be used without permission.)
Farris said he expects to announce deals in the coming weeks to license some items featuring images of King and Obama, and may sell some in the King Center bookstore alongside recordings of his speeches, postcards, calendars, mugs bearing images of King, and other licensed merchandise, which nets the center about $800,000 annually.
The family is protective of how King is depicted, and Farris said any items that are inconsistent with his uncle’s message and image would not be approved.
Any proceeds from King-Obama merchandise would also go to the King Center, said Farris, a member of the estate management team that reviews intellectual property issues.
The family, which refuses to divulge details of its licensing deals, is also discussing how to go after violators.
King’s estate sued CBS over its sale of a video documentary that used excerpts of his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. An appeals court ruled in 1999 that the speech was covered by copyright and was not public domain, but the estate ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
“They are probably one of the most careful, concerned and on-top-of-it groups of image protectors I’ve ever met,” said Philippa Loengard, assistant director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia University.
Realizing the value of his ideas, King himself copyrighted several of his speeches during his lifetime. After he died, that duty fell to his widow, Coretta, and, since her death in 2006, to their children. Some scholars have complained about the family’s aggressive pursuit of moneymaking opportunities.
But the Kings have never faced a challenge quite as big as this. Vendors across the country have capitalized on connecting Obama to King, mostly without permission and without a penny of the proceeds going to his estate.
“We realize the historic nature of events surrounding President-elect Obama and we are seeking an elegant solution to address the commercial use of Dr. King’s image in connection with our newly elected president,” Dexter King said in a statement.
With the siblings already battling in court over whether to publish their mother’s diaries, it could be difficult for them to reach a consensus.
Jock Smith, an attorney for Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, warned that any action Dexter King takes without their approval would be “an illegal action not sanctioned by the corporation.”
Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president on the 45th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the nation’s first black president will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, the day after the federal holiday created to honor King.
In the past, the King estate has relied on concerned citizens to blow the whistle on vendors and manufacturers, who then get a cease-and-desist letter. If that fails, the estate sues.
“If you make a dollar, we should make a dime,” Farris said. “That’s not happening now.”
Street vendors and cousins Francis Sarr and Michael Silva said they are not sure whether anyone licensed the T-shirts for sale at their downtown Atlanta souvenir stand, including one featuring images of King and Obama and the words, “I HAVE A DREAM … THAT CHANGE IS GONNA COME.”
But they said they would be happy to contribute a portion of the proceeds to the King estate.
“By right, they definitely deserve something from it and should give their consent to sell it,” Silva said. “I guess everyone is trying to cash in.”

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