Reader Warning: The fat lady is on her soap box this morning and she is bound to offend a few people. As always please be aware that my motives are good and my intention is to save a few lives.
First, a basic premise that I hold near and dear: God created good food for the nourishment of our bodies; man has corrupted and abused it.
I have been both amused and alarmed by the growing popularity of nutritional shakes and energy drinks, but I’ve kept quiet because most people look at me and question my knowledge of healthy eating habits. Yesterday I reached the “tipping point” at Walmart, and I knew it was time to speak up. A young woman next to me was carrying a package of Monster energy drinks. And next to the checkout lane was a display of “Dream Water” the liquid “sleep and relaxation” drink. Both are supposedly quick fixes for common problems and both are fraught with potentially dangerous side effects.
I will be the first to admit that I eat too much. But I try my best to make sure that I’m eating basic food, not heavily processed food, and that I’m eating food that is as safe as possible. I read labels and do research and I’m constantly making subtle changes in my diet. I don’t take prescription drugs or herbal supplements or even vitamins unless I understand what they will do and what side effects they might have. I’m trying to establish life-long habits that will keep me going until I’m 90. I’m not looking for a quick fix for my weight or health or anything else.
Apparently I’m in the minority because most people give little thought to what is actually in the products they consume. They fall for the claims of manufacturers and the endorsement of other consumers. They believe the convincing words on the labels and look no further for more information.
I think there are two reasons for this lack of concern.
- Consumers have a false sense of safety because they assume that someone is regulating the manufacture and sale of anything associated with “health products”. Well, yes and no. This warning is from the National Institutes for Health:
“Federal regulations for dietary supplements are very different from those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. For example, a dietary supplement manufacturer does not have to prove a product's safety and effectiveness before it is marketed. A manufacturer is permitted to say that a dietary supplement addresses a nutrient deficiency, supports health, or is linked to a particular body function (e.g., immunity), if there is research to support the claim. Such a claim must be followed by the words "This statement has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Once a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA monitors safety. If it finds a product to be unsafe, it can take action against the manufacturer and/or distributor, and may issue a warning or require that the product be removed from the marketplace.” In other words the FDA waits for someone to get sick or die from using a dietary supplement product before they step in and do something about it.
2. People assume that natural means good. Natural does not necessarily mean good or even safe. Again, from the NIH:
“Be aware that an herbal supplement may contain dozens of compounds and that its active ingredients may not be known. Researchers are studying many of these products in an effort to identify active ingredients and understand their effects in the body. Also consider the possibility that what's on the label may not be what's in the bottle. Analyses of dietary supplements sometimes find differences between labeled and actual ingredients. For example:
An herbal supplement may not contain the correct plant species. The amount of the active ingredient may be lower or higher than the label states. That means you may be taking less—or more—of the dietary supplement than you realize. The dietary supplement may be contaminated with other herbs, pesticides, or metals, or even adulterated with unlabeled ingredients such as prescription drugs.”
So, how does that information apply to our consumption of nutritional shakes, energy drinks, and sleep aids? First of all most of the nutritional shakes contain a mind-boggling array of natural ingredients that sound both exotic and reassuring. Plants are good, right? So the more the merrier. Well…maybe. Stevia, found in many low-calorie drinks, may trigger allergic reactions in people already allergic to ragweed, marigolds, and members of the daisy family. The problem might not occur unless the person is also consuming Sevia in several other products, but it is still a legitimate concern. Guarana, found in shakes and energy drinks contains far more caffeine than coffee. Kudzu has some warnings associated with its use. Milk thistle warnings include allergies and also warnings about its affect on contraceptives.
Then there is the whole issue of vitamins and minerals. My daily vitamin tablet contains 25-100% of most of the vitamins and minerals my body needs. It is the most balanced of the supplements I’ve researched and seems to compliment my pescetarian diet quite well. Vitamins A,D,E, and K are fat soluble vitamins and stored in the body for later use. Vitamins C, and B are water soluble and excess amounts are flushed out by the body. That’s why it is interesting to read labels that list 1,600% or 625% or 333% of a vitamin your body can only logically use in limited quantities. My son would call that very expensive urine! Minerals are trickier, but a little research will tell you which ones we need the most and which foods contain them. Too much niacin poses some problems and you should read more about folic acid.
Danger, danger! Many of the ingredients in “natural” shakes, supplements, and drinks do not react well with the chemicals created by man, yet few people tell their doctors about the diet or “wellness” products they are using. This can cause mild to major interactions with prescription drugs that vary from mild stomach irritation to headaches to death. One of the ingredients in the aforementioned “Dream Water” has moderate to major drug interaction warnings. I wonder how many people will actually investigate that before trying the product.
The last thing that concerns me about all these liquid cures is the cost. Some of them are unbelievably expensive, especially if anyone takes the time to compare the store brands with the products sold by the multi-level marketing groups.
Why? Why are we seeking health or energy or sleep in a bottle? Because we are lazy and willful. We don’t want to eat the things we should be eating. We don’t want to do the things we should do. We don’t want to take care of our bodies the way we should. We don’t want the slow and careful road to health; we want the quick and easy path!
God gave us the foods we need for our health and well-being.
We just need to learn to use them wisely.