food additives

Full Speed Ahead with Caffeine

Wouldn't you know it--my family is on Midwinter Break this week, so this post is being composed on my ancient iPhone. Please forgive typos, weird formatting and general nonsensicalness! But on our long flights I did manage to finish the fascinating book pictures above. I remember when my sister was in college she had a textbook called LICIT DRUGS, of which caffeine was the prime example. Whether you're a daily coffee drinker, tea Fri ker, or a regular fan of one of the top ten sodas in the country, odds are you have a caffeine addiction.

A soda might contain 1/64th teaspoon of caffeine (a bitter white powder), a 12-ounce coffee has about 1/16th teaspoon, and a dose of 1 tablespoon would be lethal! (Don't worry--that's about 50 cups of coffee or 200 cups of tea.)

Caffeine can be culled from many plant sources around the world, and no matter how we take it--through a beverage habit or by chewing kola nuts or downing chocolate, studies have found we are as good as lab rats in self-medicating. We ingest until we get our usual dosage.

Why caffeine? It suppresses our sleepiness receptors, improves reaction time and mental acuity and even makes us more sociable. Only a small percentage of folks suffer adverse effects, and we can tell when we've gone over our proper daily dosage.

The author journeys around the world and through history to investigate chocolate, soft drinks, coffee, tea, energy drinks and sports gels, and even caffeinated chewing gums!

A couple fun takeaways:
-- caffeine in your tea increases, the longer you let it steep.
--Coffee consumption in the U.S. dropped after WWII, and the you get generation prefers energy drinks.
--Most caffeine nowadays is produced synthetically in China.
-- coffee drinkers suffer less from depression ! However, caffeine does promote insulin resistance.
--Children ages 4-12 should not have more than 45-85mg caffeine daily(!!!!). Of course, if you're the crazy kind of parent giving your kids any caffeine at all, you have more late-night stamina than I ever will.

Anyhow, if, like most Americans, you're a certified caffeine addict, I recommend this read! Please enjoy the pics that follow because I can't format them within the text over my phone...

Awesome pic from the Coca-Cola Company website!
[Courtesy the Starbucks website]
"Dude. This guy wants to try our chocolate." [Pic from]

Arsenic--It's Not Just for Murderers Anymore

In Dorothy Sayers' mystery novel Strong Poison, a woman is on trial for the murder (by arsenic poisoning) of her lover. Is she guilty or not? Certainly she had some motivation, and she did hand the fellow his cup of coffee. Fortunately, Lord Peter Wimsey has taken an interest in the case and--not to spoil anything--makes some surprising discoveries when he investigates a certain man's hair clippings. The clippings, you see, contain traces of arsenic. Murder will, and does, out, and all ends happily.

The chemicals entering our body leave their traces, for good or bad. This is true whether you're a human being or an animal eaten by human beings. Riding the pink-slime, food-additive wave, journalist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about chemicals found in Big Ag chicken, including antibiotics, acetaminophen, antihistamines, antidepressants, caffeine, and even that old murder-mystery favorite, arsenic. Similar to Lord Peter's analysis of hair clippings, scientists found all the goodies in feather meal, a poultry by-product made from--uh--feathers.

Antibiotics we all know about--chickens raised in close quarters, around and next to and on top of each other, tend to get sick more and need a boost fighting off all the germs. But the other chemicals? It turns out the antihistamines, acetaminophen, and antidepressants are given to relieve anxiety. Chickens, like humans, get anxious under stress. The caffeine? Well, that keeps them awake longer so they can eat more and fatten up faster. And the arsenic? Is some chicken being poisoned by a vindictive lover? No--arsenic actually fights infection and makes chicken meat plump and appetizing. Like Airborne and Botox, all in one. Mm, mm arsenic.

If I worked as a PR specialist for Big Ag, I would see this as a $$$ opportunity. Dose those chickens up just a bit more, and you could market a Headache-Fighting Chicken (acetaminophen is better known as Tylenol)! Or how about a Cheer-You-Up-Chicken (one pumped with antidepressants)? A caffeinated Five-Hour-Energy Chicken?

Honestly, what has my un-chemically-plumped, free-roaming, organic, antibiotic- and additive-free Skagit River Ranch chicken done for me lately? Looks like, if I want to poison my husband or children, I'll have to hit the grocery store. For nefarious purposes, nothing I find at the Bellevue Farmers Market will do the trick...

See you Opening Day, Thursday, May 10, 3-7P, in the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue parking lot!