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Sugar, Coffee, and MSG

March 30, 2014

Lately I’ve noticed a number of beliefs that people hold in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary.  Many of these have to do with ingredients in food.  One of these strongly-held beliefs is that excess sugar causes children to become hyperactive.  Elementary school teachers and parents of small children insist that this is true.  They tell us that when you serve ice cream and cake at a birthday party, the children are soon bouncing off the walls.

Their conclusion that sugar is the cause is easy to understand.  In fact, it’s the party that causes hyperactivity, not the sugar.  Children at a party build off each other, just like a mob of adults will do.  That’s what causes them to bounce off the walls.  Over 30 years of scientific research have shown that sugar is not the cause.  One example is described in this article: Do children really get sugar rushes?

Is coffee really a diruretic?  A diruretic is any substance that promotes the production of urine, something that promotes dehydration.  My mother insists that coffee is a diruretic.  She tells me that all the nurses at the hostpital will tell you that it is.  Again, this conclusion is understandable.  Drinking coffee makes you pee.  Of course, drinking water does the same thing.  Water can’t be a diruretic.  Perhaps coffee isn’t either.

The confusion comes from early research on concentrated caffeine.  It is a mild diruretic.  People don’t consume concentrated caffeine.  They drink coffee.  More recent scientific evidence shows that coffee is not a diruretic.  This article describes one study: More good news about coffee.

Does monosodium glutamate cause Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?  This belief stems from one questionable report.  In fact, a small fraction of the population are sensitive to glutamates of all kinds.  The symptoms are mild, but because of these allergies, MSG must be listed on food product labels.  Glutamates are present in a wide variety of foods and food ingredients.  People who are sensitive to them should avoid all of them.  The rest of us have nothing to be concerned about, either from natural or added glutimates.  This page describes MSG well: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Questions and Answers.


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