Q: I'm desperate to find an energy drink that's good for me. What's out there? -- Sandy H., Ocean Grove, N.J.
A: Black coffee is our favorite energy drink, because caffeine delivers many benefits (alertness is the least of them!). And if you stay with the basics, you'll dodge health problems that come from choosing energy drinks packed with risky additives. So here's how to choose smart drinks to power up your day.
1. Capture caffeine's power. Caffeine boosts energy, plus helps stave off heart disease, Parkinson's, diabetes, dementia and nine types of cancer! And it eases migraine, improves exercise performance, opens airways and steps up concentration, memory and reaction time.
Aim for around 300-600 mg of caffeine a day -- stop before you get edgy or can't sleep. At-home brews deliver 100-180 mg in 12 ounces; chain coffee shops may double that dose; and 8 ounces of green or black tea contains 30-80 mg. (Skip caffeine if you have an irregular heartbeat or an enlarged prostate -- and none for pregnant women; it will affect the fetus).
2. Drink filtered coffee; a paper filter removes substances that raise LDL cholesterol. DO NOT add milk; it erases some of coffee's benefits and don't add sugar!
3. Looking for an alternative to coffee? Bottled waters with caffeine (45-90mg in 12-16 ounces) and NO SUGAR can do the trick.
4. Skip energy drinks with additives, sugar and extra vitamins. Such ingredients can cause inflammation, boost blood sugar and trigger dangerous reactions.
Q: I have type 1 diabetes, my aunt has celiac disease and my mother has Graves' disease. Why can't they come up with a vaccine that prevents autoimmune diseases from happening to our family? -- Theresa B., Sausalito, Calif.
A: Off and on, it's looked like researchers have been close to pinpointing the cause of autoimmune diseases, when your immune system's warriors mistakenly attack your own healthy cells thinking they are dangerous invaders like viruses and bacteria. But we know "close" doesn't work for you or the other 50 million people in the U.S. who have these incurable conditions. Most are women, and the numbers are increasing. From 2001 to 2009 the rate of type 1 diabetes rose 23 percent in North America, according to the American Diabetes Association. Celiac is four times more common than it was 60 years ago, and Graves' and other autoimmune thyroid diseases also may be on the rise.
The fact that these seemingly distinct conditions have affected you and your close family members is not surprising, since the genetic predisposition for each is on shared regions of multiple chromosomes.
Your question comes at a very exciting time. There's something new being tried that could affect you and everyone with an autoimmune disease. It's called a reverse vaccine. Unlike other inoculations that incite an immune response, this new "shot" stops a very specific immune response -- hence why it's called a reverse vaccine. In your case, Theresa, it would de-fang the exact T-cells that are attacking the insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas, and leave the rest of your immune system untouched.
Clinical trials are under way to test this treatment for type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and it has the potential to treat myasthenia gravis, Graves' disease and other autoimmune conditions. So stick with your medications, and keep your eye on the trials.
(Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)