Archive for Saturday, December 1, 2001

Coffee may cause osteoporosis

December 1, 2001


My parents have always been big coffee drinkers. There's a pot on almost all day long, and they probably drink four or five cups a day each.

I read that coffee makes older folks more vulnerable to osteoporosis. Is there anything to that? I would hate for my mother to end up in a wheelchair as her mother did because of weak bones.

For years, scientists have known that caffeine can lead to short-term calcium loss, but the significance of this finding was unclear.

Now, research published in the November American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrates that heavy caffeine consumption (more than 300 mg daily) might speed bone loss. The effect is seen primarily in women who have a variation in a vitamin D receptor gene.

If your mother is drinking more than three cups of coffee per day, she might be at higher risk of osteoporosis because there is a family history of this condition.

Many years ago I had drastic GI surgery to deal with multiple ulcers in my small intestine. Recovery was slow, and I was plagued with incessant diarrhea as my digestive system tried to adjust. Weeks turned into months and months into years as the problem continued. Most medicines offered more discomfort than relief.

One morning I had to make an important presentation at a meeting. I woke with a bad headache and a need to run to the bathroom. I grabbed some aspirin and some breakfast and set out, hoping I could get through the morning. Back home at lunch, I realized that my headache was gone and my GI system was calm.

Was this coincidence? Could aspirin have had this effect? I experimented with aspirin as a remedy for diarrhea. Sure enough, Mr. Bayer gave quick and effective relief! What do you make of that? Most doctors seem to doubt my sanity when I tell them.

Aspirin modifies hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins that influence digestive-tract function, so researchers have studied its effects on diarrhea. The results have been mixed.

The biggest benefits were noted with soluble aspirin in children suffering from diarrhea-induced dehydration in developing countries.

I have suffered migraines all my life. During the past few years, they got worse. My medicine stopped working, and I had headaches every day.

I was desperate, so when someone suggested I see an allergist, I went ahead. I discovered I am allergic to a lot of the foods I had been eating every day, including coffee, wheat, rice, oats, eggs and tomatoes.

Now that I have changed my diet, my head is much better. I have an appointment with a neurologist to make sure there isn't any other factor, but I want to tell people that some recurrent migraines warrant seeing an allergist.

Some people might be sensitive to certain foods. The most notorious are red wine and other alcoholic beverages. Coffee, tea, icy drinks, ice cream, chocolate, aged cheese, nuts, soy-based foods and pork have also been reported as triggers.

A diary that tracks food intake, stress, sleep, exercise and menstrual cycle along with headache frequency can be helpful in determining individual sensitivities.

I have reached the age when an enlarged prostate is bothersome at night. Saw palmetto extract was recommended, but I'd like to know if it works. Is it safe? Have there been any tests?

Saw palmetto extract has been shown to relieve symptoms of benign prostate enlargement in a number of scientific studies. It appears quite safe for most men.

The quality of herbs in the United States is not guaranteed, as there is no federal oversight. has tested many brands and found that the following are among those that meet acceptable standards: ProstaPro, CVS Premium Quality, GNC Herbal Plus, One-A-Day Prostate Health, Quanterra Prostate and Shaklee Saw Palmetto Plus.

A short time ago I read a query from a fellow having trouble with his blood pressure medications. When I was diagnosed with hypertension, I didn't want to take any drugs. Instead, I started power walking, cut back on caffeine and lowered my salt intake. I also stopped drinking any soda pop.

My blood pressure is now 128 over 72. Perhaps that young man might try this drug-free method of controlling blood pressure. It might work for him, too.

Elevated blood pressure increases a person's risk of a stroke or a heart attack, so it is important to get it under control. You used a variety of tactics that are known to be beneficial.

We have summarized a number of nonpharmaceutical options for hypertension, along with discussions of the benefits and risks of many medications, in our "Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment." Others who would like a copy should send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site,

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