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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

Are coffee and sweeteners unhealthy?

I drink 5-6 mugs of strong full caffeine instant coffee most days. I much prefer sweetened coffee so I use Canderel spoonful (two - three heaped teaspoonfuls per mug). I have some questions, please.
1) Is the amount of caffeine truly unhealthy (I usually drink Nescafe Gold Blend) and what could be its effects?
2) Is there really any advantage from drinking decaf? (I have read that the chemicals used to remove the caffeine are just as bad if not worse)
3) Are there any bad or unpleasant chemicals in the sweetener?

The rest of my diet is extremely healthy. I shall be most grateful for your advice. Thank you.

A.

Our expert says...

Hi there.

I'm glad to hear that your overall diet is healthy, as that is what counts the most. However coffee cannot really be classed as a 'healthy' food. Coffee has been linked to numerous health problems, such as tiredness and headaches, and the caffeine in it can also over-stimulate the body.

Drinking large amounts of coffee, over a prolonged time period, can upset blood sugar levels, which can eventually lead to weight gain. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland to release adrenaline - this is why we so often have a cup when we need a pick-me-up. Adrenaline has the effect of increasing blood glucose levels to ensure your body has enough energy to copy with any emergency situation which may arise, such as running away. If this circulating blood glucose is not used up as fuel, insulin removes it from the blood and can store it as fat.

Decaffeinated coffee still contains milder stimulants called theobromine and theophyline. So, decaffeinated coffee isn't exactly stimulant free and, as you rightly point out, a lot of chemicals are used in the processing of the product.

And I'm afraid I am not a big fan of artificial sweeteners either! These are unnatural chemicals, which our bodies have to breakdown and excrete, and prolonged use has been linked to many serious illnesses. In reality, the long-term effects of these products on our bodies are unknown, which I find quite alarming. The other drawback is that although sweeteners are calorie-free, they maintain a sweet tooth and it is much better to wean yourself off sweet foods, if you can.

Having said all of this, if the rest of your diet is healthy, and you enjoy drinking coffee, then I think you have to have some pleasures when you are dieting! My advice is to drink good quality coffee, but to try and reduce the number of cups slightly. Balance this with drinking plenty of water and use our water meter monitor to keep a check.

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