Did You Get Fooled by This Recent Mainstream Headline?

If you weren't careful, you may have read these headlines and jumped to the wrong conclusion...

  • Energy drinks linked to frightening side effects for your heart – MarketWatch
  • Beware what's in your favorite energy drink – The Business Journal
  • Energy drinks cause heart problems in as little as three hours – CBS

I'm sure many folks immediately thought of cutting caffeine...

After all, caffeine is usually labeled the villain when it comes to harming your heart.

But the surprising part about this study just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association wasn't that energy drinks are bad for your heart... It's that the problem isn't from caffeine.

Researchers from the University of the Pacific in California studied what energy drink consumption does to blood pressure and electrical activity in the heart.

The study was small, with only 34 participants, but it was still the largest of its kind. And it confirms suspicions we've had for years.

It's true that caffeine raises blood pressure, at least for a little while, although the causation is a little muddy. But it's a powerful antioxidant and helps alleviate migraines.

What this study found was that caffeine isn't the root cause of other heart issues. According to researchers, "While blood pressure changes can be attributed primarily to the caffeine, other ingredients in energy drinks may pose some hemodynamic [electromechanical] activity." They pointed to one ingredient in particular – taurine, a type of amino acid.

On its own, taurine can actually lower blood pressure. But it's a popular ingredient found in energy drinks that helps give you that energy boost.

Other studies have pointed to the dangers of the chemical combinations in energy drinks. One paper we found revealed that the combination of caffeine, taurine, and guarana (all popular ingredients found in energy drinks) actually speeds up cell death in human nerve cells. (You can read more on this research and other papers in this excellent review.)

If you need a boost, skip the can filled with chemicals and sugar. Do what I do: Brew up some regular coffee or simply take a nap. I also enjoy getting out in the sunshine for an easy pick-me-up.

Q: If there is a global currency crash as a precursor to stock market crashes, how should we protect ourselves if we have gone to cash? – I.P.

A: A good bet is the dollar. Despite our national debt and low interest rates, it's a safe-haven currency and has been for decades. So holding your cash in U.S. dollars is a strong place to be.

Otherwise, if everyone is getting out of all currencies, then where are they going? Whatever your model of this crash is, that's where you'd want to be first.

Presumably, you don't picture these panicked citizens moving from cash into stocks or bonds. I suppose they'd be moving to gold, bitcoin, or farmland. That's up to whatever sort of crash you see coming.

And of course, I like to call gold a "chaos hedge." I've long maintained that part of your portfolio belongs in gold as protection for when things in the economy get ugly.

What really drives the price of gold is the currency it's valued in. When the dollar is strong in relation to other currencies, the price of gold goes down. And when the dollar weakens, the price of gold goes up.

If history proves to be true, gold should be a safe spot to park your money during the next big market drop. And to look at the most recent data, when the stock market dropped 19% from October to December, gold tacked on 7%... and went on to rally 13%.

Q: Kindly enlighten us on your thoughts about having a routine colonoscopy after the age of 50 years as my GP strongly recommends. – A.K.

A: Longtime subscribers know I regularly criticize the medical industry. It's true... We're in the middle of an overtreatment epidemic. Doctors are overtesting and overtreating patients.

But I'm not anti-medicine... I'm all about common sense, science-based tests, and proper treatments.

Screening for colorectal cancer is one of the few essential medical tests.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a panel of 16 MDs and PhDs whose specialties range from behavioral health to pediatrics. These experts look at the research and make recommendations on the usefulness of screenings, counseling services, and preventative medications. They write guidelines that any doctor worth his salt will follow.

The USPSTF recommends screening for adults aged 50 to 75 years old. If there is a history of cancer in your family, start screening at age 50. Types of screening include fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy examines the entire rectum and colon. Growths can be removed or biopsied during a colonoscopy. And while it's the riskiest of the three screenings, that risk may be worthwhile if you have a high risk of colorectal cancer.

I always advise readers to do their research and take a close look at the risks and benefits before undergoing any medical procedure or treatment.

Q: Dr. Eifrig mentioned that money market mutual funds (MMMFs) are not the safest way to hold cash and to rather put it into bank accounts. How about just letting it set in one's brokerage cash account? Would this be better than the MMMF? – R.V.

A: It depends on the type of account your money is sitting in. The first two things you should check are how it's insured and if it's earning any interest.

Most brokers are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation ("SIPC"). This is like insurance that protects you if the firm goes out of business... Your cash and securities held by the firm should be protected up to $500,000. It's similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which protects bank accounts. But it only protects you if your broker fails financially and is a member of SIPC.

And some, again depending on the account, are FDIC insured. (As a refresher, the FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000 per account type, per depositor.)

The biggest drawback is the lack of easy access to your cash. If you need to withdraw your cash from your broker, it can take several days to get the money out of your brokerage account.

Keep that in mind when deciding where to park your cash.

As always, send you comments, questions, and criticisms to [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 31, 2019