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   Nutrition FAQs
Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
Do artificial sweeteners help you lose weight?
I drink a lot of coffee and tea everyday… how much is too much?
I am worried that my friend may have an eating disorder.  What signs should I look for?
How much fiber do I need and what foods contain the most fiber?
Do dairy foods really help you lose weight?

Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe? 

Artificial sweeteners have been the subject of controversy over the years.  Some people have reported dizziness, hallucinations, or headache after consuming foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners. Obviously, people who think they have been affected by sugar substitutes should avoid them. Also, the few people with the rare disease PKU (phenylketonuria) need to avoid aspartame.  Here’s the latest on the scientific research for some popular sugar substitutes:

Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
Many studies on animals have shown that saccharin can cause cancer of the urinary bladder. In other rodent studies, saccharin has caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels, and other organs. Other studies have shown that saccharin increases the potency of other cancer-causing chemicals. And the best epidemiology study (done by the National Cancer Institute) found that the use of artificial sweeteners (saccharin and cyclamate) was associated with a higher incidence of bladder cancer.

Despite the evidence, in May 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services removed saccharin from its list of cancer-causing chemicals. Later that year, Congress passed a law removing the warning notice that has resulted in increased use in soft drinks and other foods and in a slightly greater incidence of cancer.  Check the nutrition panel if you want to avoid this ingredient!
Aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal)
In 2005, a study found that even low doses of aspartame increased the incidence of lymphomas and leukemias in female rats and also might have caused occasional brain tumors. However, in 2006, National Cancer Institute researchers studied a large number of adults 50 to 69 years of age. Over a five-year period, there was no evidence that aspartame posed any risk. The bottom line is that aspartame is probably safe, but it would make sense to consume only small amounts or no aspartame until we have more conclusive evidence.
Sucralose (Splenda)
Approved by the FDA in 1998, Sucralose is safer than saccharin, aspartame, and cyclamate.  Splenda Brand Sweetener has been subjected to one of the most extensive and thorough safety testing programs ever conducted on a new food additive.

Do artificial sweeteners help you lose weight?

There is some evidence that artificial sweeteners help people lose weight. However, some studies indicate that calories saved by using a sugar substitute are sometimes made up elsewhere.  So drinking a diet soda at lunch does not mean it is okay to have a larger dessert at dinner. Artificial sweeteners are clearly not magic bullets to vanquish obesity: Since 1980, consumption of artificial sweeteners and rates of obesity have both soared.  But for people consuming a healthful diet with moderate portion sizes, sugar substitutes can be a helpful way to cut calories.

I drink a lot of coffee and tea everyday… how much is too much?

There are greater amounts of caffeine in coffee than tea. At this time, in healthy adults the preponderance of evidence suggests that moderate caffeine intake up to 400 mg/d is not associated with increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis or high cholesterol. (See chart below to see how much caffeine you may be ingesting.)  Some people are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than others and may feel effects at lower doses. Pregnancy and aging may affect one's sensitivity to caffeine. Caffeine can also interfere with sleep.  Pregnant women are often advised to limit caffeine consumption because caffeine intakes higher than 300 mg/d have been associated with increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

Interestingly, a 2005 JAMA study found that the risk of hypertension was about 30% greater in women how drank at least 4 cups or cans of sugared cola, possibly because of ingredients other than caffeine.  More studies are needed before we can fully understand the relationship between cola and hypertension.

Product Caffeine (mg)*
Coffee, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks 550
Caffe Americano, short (8 oz.) Starbucks 35
Coffee, tall (12 oz.) Starbucks 375
Caffe Latte, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks> 35
Coffee, short (8 oz.) Starbucks 250
Caffe Mocha, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks 35
NoDoz, Maximum Strength (1), or Vivarin (1) 200
Cappuchino, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks 35
7-Eleven Big Gulp cola (64 oz.)> 190
Cola (12 oz.) 35**
Coffee, non-gourmet (8 oz.) 135**>
Espresso (1 oz.) Starbucks 35
Excedrin (2) 130 >
Tea, green or instant (8 oz.) 30**
Maxwell House (8 oz.) 110
Chocolate, dark, bittersweet, semi-sweet (1 oz.) 20**
Caffe Americano, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks> 105
Coffee, decaf, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks 10
NoDoz, Regular Strength (1) 100
Tea, bottles (12 oz.) or from instant mix (8 oz.) 14**
Coffee, instant (8 oz.) 95**
Coffee, decaf, short (8 oz.) or tall (12 oz.) Starbucks 10
Caffe Americano, tall (12 oz.) Starbucks 70
Chocolate, milk (1 oz.)> 5**
Caffe Latte or Cappuccino, grande (16 oz.)Starbucks 70
Cocoa or hot chocolate (8oz.) 5**
Caffe Mocha, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks 70
Coffee, decaf, non-gourmet (8 oz.) 5**
Espresso, double (2 oz.) Starbucks 70
Espresso, decaf (1 oz.) Starbucks 5
Water, caffeinated (Edge 2 O), (8 oz.) 70
Tea, decaf (8 oz.)  
Anacin (2) 65
Cola (20 oz.) 60**
Mountain Dew (12 oz.) 55
Cola (16 oz.) 50**
Tea, leaf or bag (8 oz.) 50

*Average caffeine levels for popular beverages, foods, and drugs
   (rounded to the nearest 5 milligrams.)
**typical value

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

I am worried that my friend may have an eating disorder.  What signs should I look for? 

It can be hard to tell - after all, someone who’s lost or gained a lot of weight or feels constantly tired may have another type of health condition. But some of the signs that a friend may have an eating disorder include:

  • Your friend has an obsession with weight and food (more than general comments about how many calories he or she eats in a day). It might seem like your friend talks about food and nothing else.
  • Your friend knows exactly how many calories and fat grams are in everything that he or she eats - and is constantly pointing this out.
  • Your friend feels the need to exercise all the time, even when sick or exhausted.
  • Your friend avoids hanging out with you and other friends during meals. For example, he or she avoids the school cafeteria at lunch or the restaurant where you usually meet on weekends.
  • Your friend starts to wear big or baggy clothes. Lots of people wear baggy clothes, but someone who wears baggy clothes to conceal a body he or she doesn't like isn't following a fashion trend.
  • Your friend goes on dramatic or very restrictive diets, cuts food into tiny pieces, moves food around on the plate instead of eating it, and is very precise about how food is arranged on the plate.
  • Your friend goes to the bathroom a lot, especially right after meals, or you've heard your friend vomiting after eating.
  • Despite losing a lot of weight, your friend always talks about how fat he or she is.
  • Your friend appears to be gaining a lot of weight even though you never see him or her eat.
  • Your friend frequently takes laxatives, steroids, or diet pills.
  • Your friend has a tendency to faint, bruises easily, is very pale, or starts complaining of being cold more than usual (cold intolerance can be a symptom of being underweight).

How much fiber do I need and what foods contain the most fiber?

Dietary fiber — also known as roughage or bulk — includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber is often classified into two categories: those that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber).

According to the National Academy of Sciences, men younger than 50 should consume at least 38 grams of fiber each day.  Women younger than 50 should have at least 25 grams.  Men older than 50 should consume 30 grams or more, and women over 50 should have at least 21 grams.  If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Choose whole-grain products, raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, and dried beans and peas. Great sources of dietary fiber include split peas, raspberries, oatmeal, whole wheat spaghetti, broccoli, apples, red kidney beans, and popcorn.

Do dairy foods really help you lose weight?

In the past year the dairy industry has launched a campaign centered on the role of dairy foods in weight loss. This advertising has left many consumers believing that dairy products promote weight loss. However, here is what the ads didn’t tell you:
  • Only three small published studies have found greater weight loss in people who were told to cut calories and eat dairy foods, and all were done by one researcher with a patent on the claim.
  • The government’s expert nutrition advisory panel has called the evidence on dairy and weight loss “inconclusive.”
  • Two new studies have found that dairy foods don’t help people lose weight. Until further studies are conducted, it is best to assume that adding dairy foods without cutting calories will not result in fewer pounds.
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