NEWSTART Element #5: Temperance

A detailed, scientific explanation of Nutrition by Neil Nedley, M.D., taken from his book Proof Positive

The concept of promoting personal health by a judicious exposure to sunshine provides a perfect backdrop for looking at the fifth NEWSTART element. The first “T” stands for “temperance.” Temperance in the context of this book means “total abstinence from substances that are harmful and moderate use of substances that are helpful.” Applying the “temperance” concept to sunshine would lead us to use this helpful factor in moderation. Often the challenge concerning temperance is to decide which substances to use in moderation and which to avoid totally.

The concept of total abstinence has become very unpopular. Many health educators promote the mistaken idea that almost anything we do is appropriate so long as we do it in moderation. From a study of the research literature, coupled with personal experience from my own life and those of my patients, it is evident that we would be better off totally avoiding many things that are popular to use “in moderation.” Elsewhere in this book (Chapter 17, “Want a Drink?”), the case for total avoidance of alcoholic beverages from a health perspective is presented. I am not a lone voice crying for total abstinence from alcohol. The World Health Organization has taken the same position, now advocating “no alcohol” as the standard.80 In several chapters of this book I have cited concerns with another popular addictive drug: caffeine. Caffeinated beverages present a subtle threat to our health which some are finally beginning to grasp.

Problems with Moderate Caffeine Use

As pointed out in Chapter 2 on cancer, medical research has raised concerns that coffee and other caffeinated beverages may increase the risk of certain cancers. The list of those malignancies include cancers of the kidney, breast, pancreas, ovary, bladder, and colon.81, 82, 83, 84, 85 Theobromine is a caffeine relative found particularly in chocolate and tea. Research suggests that even small amounts of this compound taken regularly can double a man’s risk of prostate cancer.86 The concerns with caffeine and its relatives are not wholly theoretical: these drugs have potent cancer-causing effects. In laboratory studies they are capable of damaging the chromosomes of both plants and animals.87, 88, 89, 90, 91

Certain experts contest some of these findings. Are you willing to take the risk of continuing your caffeine habit? Many have become habituated—if not addicted—to moderate or large amounts of caffeine; the suggestion of total avoidance brings up great barriers. To illustrate your approach to this decision, assume that you are planning to build a new house. You find a place on a nice piece of property, but the land is over an old toxic waste dump. Some experts tell you that there is no proof of any risk from living above that dump. Others have grounds for concern that living there will increase your risk of cancers of the kidney, breast, pancreas, ovary, bladder, and colon. Do you roll the dice and move in, or do you say, “why take the risk?”

If you had never acquired the caffeine habit, you would probably stay totally clear of it. However, if it is a part of your life, is it worth giving up? I would say “yes.” I have worked with many people who have overcome the caffeine addiction. At first it may be a struggle, but over time they not only get along fine without it but they also reap the health benefits of their decision.

Caffeine not only increases the theoretical risk of cancer, it also brings a host of other problems in its train. Coffee and/or caffeine are linked to an increased risk of such problems as miscarriages, low birth weight babies, worsening depression, anxiety and fatigue, elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, heart disease, bone loss and osteoporosis, and other maladies. Further information is provided in Chapter 2 on cancer and Chapter 12, “The Frontal Lobe—The Crown of the Brain.”

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