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Jewish World Review April 9, 2002 / 28 Nisan, 5762

Dr. Ed Blonz

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Consumer Reports

Is guarana like coffee?; good way to avoid cholesterol and save money | DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is guarana habit-forming? Is it sufficiently like caffeine to be of concern? My religious beliefs recommend that I keep away from caffeine. I am 67 years old and retired. I suffer from tiredness, even after a good night's sleep, and I have leg aches (calf to ankle) as soon as I wake. -- M.J.

Dear M.J.: Guarana comes from a paste made from the crushed seeds of a woody shrub native to the Amazon region. Caffeine, which belongs to the alkaloid family, is the principal active ingredient in guarana. There is a higher concentration of caffeine in guarana than in the coffee bean, the kola nut or cacao (cocoa). Guarana also contains trace amounts of other alkaloid compounds, most notably theophylline and theobromine. Is guarana habit-forming? Yes. Caffeine, regardless of its source, can cause tolerance, psychological dependence and habituation when consumed on a regular basis.

Withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, drowsiness and fatigue, can occur when intake is stopped abruptly. Interestingly enough, abstinence from caffeine is a common cause of post-operative headaches. One study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (July, 1997) found it beneficial to give a small amount of caffeine intravenously to surgery outpatients who are at risk for caffeine-withdrawal headaches. Any number of things can cause leg aches. You might benefit from stretching and flexibility exercises, or there might be specific medications or herbs you can try. Your problems might even be caused by the bed in which you sleep. You need to find out whether there is anything medically wrong with you before you begin looking for ways to provide relief.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have to watch my cholesterol intake. Because of the high price of egg substitutes, I have been buying eggs by the dozen and then separating the yolks from the whites. Is this a good way to avoid cholesterol and save money? - J.R., El Cajon, Calif.

Dear J.R.: Your solution seems reasonable. An egg white is a source of high-quality protein. In fact, egg whites are the standard to which all other proteins are compared. There are approximately 3.5 grams of protein in the white of every large egg. There are small amounts of other nutrients, including selenium, potassium and sodium, but protein is the egg white's main nutritional contribution. The yolk, by contrast, contains lesser amounts of protein, together with small amounts of vitamin A, folate, phosphorous, potassium and selenium.

You mentioned that you have to watch your cholesterol content. The yolk of one large egg contains approximately 213 milligrams of cholesterol. For those with an otherwise balanced diet, the periodic use of whole eggs has been shown to have only a minimal impact on blood-cholesterol level. If you truly have a passion for eggs, having one per day can fit within the American Heart Association guidelines. If you like, you could use only one of the yolks with two egg whites.

I want to follow up with some general information about dietary cholesterol. Please bear in mind that this might not apply to your specific case.

The American public has been persuaded to wear blinders that let them see only fat and cholesterol as the key factors responsible for heart disease. The logical outcome of such thinking is that reducing dietary fat and cholesterol is essential to eliminate the risk of heart disease. It is not that simple. There's little question that fat and cholesterol play a role in heart disease, but they are not the unqualified culprits we've been led to believe. It's more important that your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc., that supply the key nutrients that enhance your health. A body that is well nourished is better equipped to handle the fat and cholesterol in the foods it ingests.

JWR contributor Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and author of Power Nutrition and the "Your Personal Nutritionist" book series. Send questions to him by clicking here.


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03/26/02: Removing acid from coffee; Can shark cartilage treat arthritis?
03/19/02: Lowering sodium in canned veggies; Are natural vitamins better?
03/12/02: Don't sweat the timing; bilberry and macular degeneration
03/05/02: Stay away from the creamers
02/26/02: Tomato effects on men; impact of taking all of those tablets
02/19/02: Is decaf dangerous?
02/12/02: Do veggies prevent mineral absorption?
02/05/02: Incompatibility problems between calcium and vitamin C; Can supplements prevent blindness?
01/29/02: What's wrong with the meat?; Does tuna packed in water still have high levels of omega-3?; Avoid "fractionated vegetable oils?"
01/22/02: Is all soy milk created equal?; foods containing magnesium; why do vitamins expire?
01/15/02: Three cheers for chocolate?
01/08/02: Making sense of labels
01/03/02: "Thermogenic" weight loss
12/26/01: What's up with ephedra?
12/18/01: Is new supplement a scam?

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