Sometimes the things you think are safe to eat or drink, are the ones you should be the most careful about. For example, a website visitor writes that she switched from regular coffee to decaf about 6 months ago, and that about 1-1/2 years ago, she as diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She has also been fighting weight gain for about two years, but even more over the past 6 months. Recently she was told that decaf coffee has a great deal of cholesterol because oil is used in the decaffination process. Our reader wondered if this could have anything to do with her current weight battle.

Registered dietitian, Astrid, says that our readers increased weight is not connected to the use of decaf, unless cream and sugar are used and she drinks more than 3-4 cups a day. According to Astrid, decaffeinated coffee contains no fat or cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in products of animal origin. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases energy expenditure, but its elimination should not affect weight, as large enough quantities to cause any metabolic effect probably aren’t being consumed. Common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches and mood swings. Assuming our reading was diagnosed and treated by an endocrinologist for the hypothyroidism, Astrid advises continued regular checkups to make sure this condition is under control. Hyperthyroidism contributes to weight gain, but once the condition is treated, metabolism should return to normal, and you should be able to lose weight with a sensible weight loss plan.

The elimination of a bad habit can also affect your health and metabolism dramatically. Another of our web visitors tells us that a friend doesn’t believe there is a link between metabolism and smoking. After 20+ years, our reader quit smoking, and believes his metabolism has slowed dramatically. He has gained several pounds, but exercises aerobically almost everyday and lives a fairly active lifestyle. But admits that when he was smoking he could eat more and not have his weight affected. His question is: Is there evidence that smoking increases metabolism and/or that metabolism slows when people quit smoking?

Since more Americans die from smoking-related diseases than from AIDS, drug abuse, car accidents and murder combined, its always a good step toward better health for you and those around you to quit smoking. According to Astrid, nicotine, one of the components of cigarette smoke, increases energy expenditure by stimulating the central nervous system. Once this drug is eliminated from a person’s system, energy expenditure returns to normal. This difference is not very significant and your body should adjust to it in a short while. Smoking also appears to ease feelings of hunger. Smokers usually overcome hunger by lighting up. Consequently, Astrid says that weight gain is often experienced soon after a person stops smoking. The average weight gain of people who quit smoking, however, is less than 10 pounds. Being aware of the problem will help in avoiding or minimizing the weight gain. Astrid suggests adjusting eating habits and physical activity to maintain weight during and after quitting. Smoking cessation, she notes, lengthens life expectancy by an average of 2-4 years and is well worth the effort.

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