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Artificial sweeteners, caffeine

Created date

July 28th, 2017
Woman's hands encircling a cup of coffee.

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor's medical advice.

Q: I use artificial sweeteners in most of my drinks. Are these harmful in any way?

A: All artificial sweeteners, also called high-intensity sweeteners because they tend to be sweeter than regular cane sugar, are approved prior to going to market by the Food and Drug Administration. They are “generally recognized as safe” per the scientific community when used as intended in normal amounts. The FDA bases its safety information on a review of scientific evidence and expert recommendations. The key here is moderation. Some sweeteners, when consumed in large amounts, have been reported to affect people negatively, and some people seem to have reactions even in small amounts. Your primary care doctor can best advise you about whether artificial sweeteners are okay for your personal health. 

Q: One day I’ll hear that caffeine is good for health, the next day I’ll hear it isn’t. What’s the truth?

A: The FDA reports that about 80% of adults in the U.S. consume some form of caffeine every day. The FDA considers it a drug as well as a food additive. Caffeine’s primary effect is as a nervous system stimulant. It also causes your stomach to release acid, acts as a diuretic, and may have unpleasant side effects for some people. Some people with heart disease may have to avoid it because it can make the heart work harder and raise blood pressure. There are some studies that suggest coffee consumption in particular is associated with lower rates of liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. There is no scientific proof, however, that caffeine can in fact prevent or treat medical conditions. While small to moderate amounts of caffeine (defined as no more than 200 mg or two 5-oz cups of coffee a day) are considered generally safe for most people, check with your doctor about whether it is safe for you in light of your health conditions and other medicines you take.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. Dr. Studley obtained her medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif.  She completed her residency in internal medicine and her fellowship in geriatrics at Tufts University, Baystate Campus, in Springfield, Mass. She is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Studley is also a member of the American Geriatrics Society and the American Academy of Home Care Medicine. She joined Highland Springs in April 2017.