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FOOD ADDITIVES: CAFFEINE
"For Informational Use Only"
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Caffeine, a strong stimulant of the central nervous system, occurs naturally in tea leaves and in coffee, cocoa, and kola beans. Caffeine may cause birth defects and should be avoided by pregnant women.
The discovery that coffee beans contain a substance that wards off sleep has been credited to residents of an Arabian monastery. Shepherds noted that goats that ate coffee beans pranced around all night long. The abbot, learning of this, made from the beans a drink which kept him awake during long, prayerful nights.
Caffeine is used as a food additive only in soft drinks. Kola beans contain caffeine, but much is removed during processing, and so an additional quantity is added to many colas to give them extra spark, liveliness, or whatever it is that the latest advertising jingle proclaims. Cola drinks and Dr. Pepper must contain caffeine (up to 0.02 percent), but need not list it on the label. Other carbonated drinks may contain caffeine, but must disclose that fact on the label.
The amount of caffeine in a product varies from brand to brand, but the following average quantities were listed in FDA's Fact Sheet On Caffeine: Colas contain 40 to 73 milligrams per 12 ounce serving. A cup of coffee or tea contains about 90 milligrams of caffeine. According to the Hershey Corporation, one ounce of cocoa contains 50 milligrams of caffeine, a one-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains 25 milligrams. "Stay awake" pills contain approximately 110 milligrams of caffeine. The great fondness Americans have for caffeine-containing beverages and pills probably accounts in part for the booming sales of tranquilizers.
Moderate amounts of caffeine have definite effects on the body. Studies on animals and man have shown that the drug allays drowsiness, enables one to work faster and to think more clearly, stimulates the brain, heart muscle, and kidneys, alters the metabolism of fat, dilates the blood vessels, and causes insulin to be released. The drug increases the production of stomach acid and probably contributes to the number and misery of persons suffering from peptic ulcers.
Caffeine stimulates children more strongly than adults and may cause them to be hyperactive and nervous. Next time you hand your child a bottle of cold, refreshing cola, think for a moment of the agony you may go through a couple of hours later when you try to send him or her to bed.
Persons who drink large amounts of coffee - 15 to 20 cups a day - may develop "caffeinism." The symptoms of this illness, which is most often observed in waitresses, long-distance truck drivers, and night-shift workers, are insomnia, a slight fever, and irritability. The nerve-racking symptoms quickly recede when sufferers cut down on their coffee drinking.
For a time heart specialists conjectured that coffee and tea might promote heart disease, which is associated with high fat levels in blood, because caffeine raises fat or cholesterol levels in the blood of laboratory animals. Several ambitious studies were undertaken in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, Canada, and England to look for a relationship between coffee consumption and heart attacks. Researchers did not detect a significant correlation in any of the experiments.
Caffeine belongs to the class of chemicals called purines, some of which are important constituents of chromosomes and genes. Geneticists knew that some purines caused mutations and feared that caffeine, a widely consumed chemical, might also cause mutations. In the past decades scientists have conducted a variety of experiments to evaluate the potential hazard. The earliest studies, which were done around 1950, showed that caffeine was weakly mutagenic in bacteria. This positive finding on one of the lowest forms of life encouraged scientists to do experiments on mammals and insects. In 1968 a German researcher claimed to have shown that caffeine caused mutations in mice. However, other scientists found flaws both in his data and in his conclusions. Subsequent careful studies by eminent geneticists and toxicologists all gave unequivocally negative results.
While caffeine does not cause mutations, it does cause birth defects, at least in animals. Dr. H. Nishimura and his colleagues at Kyoto University found that injecting 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight into pregnant mice induced birth defects in 6 to 20 percent of the offspring. These dosages were quite high, equivalent to injecting into a woman caffeine contained in 50 to 100 cups of coffee. In three additional studies conducted in Germany, France, and England, caffeine was fed - not injected - to pregnant mice in amounts corresponding to 25 cups of coffee per day for a woman (50 to 75 milligrams per kilogram). Birth defects occurred in 1 to 3 percent of the baby mice in two of the studies but were not observed in the third. Higher oral dosages of caffeine, 100 to 150 milligrams per kilogram, caused malformations in 8 to 20 percent of the fetuses, respectively. The proportionality between dose and incidence of malformations increases the confidence we may have in these experiments and indicates that even the small amount of caffeine present in a cup or two of coffee a day might cause birth defects.
Experiments on animals provide only a rough measure of a chemical's effects on human fetuses. Humans are sometimes much more sensitive (thalidomide) or much less sensitive than other species of animals to chemicals that cause birth defects. So one cannot state conclusively that caffeine does or does not cause birth defects in humans. Clearly, we need more information: we need surveys of the caffeine intakes of women who had miscarriages or who gave birth to malformed babies, and we need further teratology studies involving different species of animals and lower levels of caffeine. However, the animal experiments point to the existence of a real hazard. Obstetricians, midwives and books about childbearing should inform expectant mothers of the possible danger. Caffeine causes nausea in many pregnant women; the body may have evolved this mechanism for discouraging women from consuming a possibly dangerous chemical.
As a reasonable precaution, pregnant women should avoid caffeine containing "stay awake" pills and other drugs, coffee, colas, chocolate, or other caffeine-containing foods and drinks during their pregnancies, especially in the first three months of pregnancy. For inveterate coffee or cola drinkers, a decaffeinated coffee such as Sanka, Postem, barley tea (tastes similar to coffee) and the caffeine free colas and drinks can be consumed as an alternative.
Arzneimittel-Forschung 14 415 (1964).
C.R. Soc. Biol. 159 2199 (1965).
Lancet 1 721 (1966).
Postgrad. Med. 44 196 (1968).
Arch. Biochem. 1343, 434 (1969).
Jap. J. PHarm. 19 134 (1969).
Metabolism 18 1007 (1969).
Fd. Cos. Tox. 8 381 (1970).
Eater's Digest: A closeup look at food additives. Michael F. Jacobson. Anchor Books (1972).
CAFFEINE & B-VITAMINS
By Joy Jones
Original Link: Topic of the Week: Aspartame, Caffeine, B-Vitamins, & Insomnia
Printed With Permission.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with the consumption of caffeine during pregnancy is that caffeine destroys B-vitamins, which are essential vitamins in pregnancy. According to Adelle Davis, nutritionist and author of Let's Have Healthy Children, "Since the B vitamins dissolve in water, they are readily lost in urine. The stimulating effect of coffee and caffeine-containing soft drinks causes them to be washed through the body." (p. 98) She also says that a deficiency of Vitamin B-6, one of the B-vitamins, can cause or exacerbate nausea and vomiting, bad breath, headaches, dry, scaly skin, intestinal cramps, aches and cramping in the legs (especially at night), nervousness, insomnia, dizziness, irritability, dandruff, difficulty concentrating, hemorrhoids, anemia, and lowered resistance to infections. She found that all of these symptoms disappeared within 2 weeks of the volunteers being given the level of B-6 that they needed (p. 46).
It is very easy to have a B-vitamin deficiency in pregnancy, according to Ms. Davis, because the body's need for B-vitamins "increases immediately after conception" (p. 45). And most prescription prenatal vitamins have very low levels of B-vitamins. Most of them have less than 5 mg of most of the B-vitamins, while most pregnant women need 50 to 100 mg or more of the B-vitamins, varying from B vitamin to B vitamin, and varying from woman to woman. For example, in order to help alleviate the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy a pregnant woman needs to take "10 to 25 mg of B-6 every hour or two for a day or longer" (p. 47). Taking extra B-vitamins can also help with insomnia, anemia, and hemorrhoids in pregnancy.
However, it should also be noted that it is important to not take either the multivitamin or the extra B-vitamins after 3 PM, because the B-vitamins in them may interfere with sleep if taken at that time of day, while they can help alleviate nighttime insomnia, if they are taken before 3 PM. If you are working on alleviating nausea and vomiting with extra B-6 supplements, you can try continuing to take them every hour or two after 3 pm, and see if your sleep is affected when you do that.
If you do decide to switch from your prescription prenatal vitamins to a health-food-store brand, the "Whole Foods" brand of prenatal vitamins is one brand that contains more adequate levels of B-vitamins than the prescription brands do, in my opinion. However, if you decide not to switch away from your prescription brand, you can still supplement your prescription prenatal vitamin by taking that prescription multi-vitamin with breakfast, and add your extra B-vitamins with lunch. If you do this, be sure to find a brand of B-complex vitamin which has all the B-vitamins in the proper balance. I suggest that you avoid the "B-25" or "B-50" or "B-100" vitamins, in which all the B-vitamins are at the same level, since that is not a safe way to take B-vitamins. The proper proportion of B-vitamins is as follows: "For every 3 mg of vitamin B-1, there should also be 3 mg of vitamins B-2 and B-6; 18 mg of pantothenic acid, niacinamide and PABA; 600 mg of choline and inositol, and 9 to 15 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 and biotin respectively." (p. 191) One of the "Whole Foods" B-Complex preparations is apparently balanced in a fashion similar to Ms. Davis' description.
The bottom line is that one of the main dangers of consuming caffeine - in coffee, tea, sodas, or chocolate - is in the fact that caffeine destroys B-vitamins, which are important nutrients in pregnancy. So even if you have only 1 cup of coffee a day, it can be destroying some of the B-vitamins that you are paying good money to put into your body, at the same time that your body's need for more B's has increased because of the pregnancy.
I recommend that you get a copy of Adelle Davis's book, Let's Have Healthy Children, from your local library, or through inter-library loan, and find out more about B-vitamins in pregnancy. I also recommend that you consult with your midwife regarding your questions about caffeine and B-vitamins.
HELPFUL RELATED LINKS
Caffeine and Pregnancy Babycenter.com: Caffeine and Pregnancy Caffeine, Pregnancy & Fertility Risk Newsletter Coffee & Caffeine in Pregnancy, Links to ADD & Learning Disabilities Caffeine Increases Risk of Miscarriage
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