A bad Mix-Why Alcohol And Energy Drinks Are Dangerous

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April 19th, 2011

Mixing alcohol with other substances is never really a good idea, and pairing it with energy drinks may be especially hazardous.

That might seem obvious, but the results of a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research provide some interesting insights into why. Cecile Marczinski, a psychologist at Northern Kentucky University, found that combining energy drinks such as Red Bull with vodka or other liquors effectively removes any built-in checks your body has for overindulging.

When you drink alcohol by itself, it initially induces a feeling of happiness — a comfortable buzz. But when you overindulge, your body knows it, and it starts to shut down; you start feeling tired, sleepy and more sedated than stimulated. “That’s your cue to go home to bed,” says Marczinski.

But in her drinking study, for which she (easily) recruited participants, she found that people downing the combination of alcohol and energy drinks lost this natural control. Marczinski had volunteers show up at her lab and drink either plain alcoholic drinks; mixed beverages containing alcohol and energy drinks; energy drinks alone; or a non-alcoholic beverage.

When the drinkers were asked to rate how stimulated and energetic they felt — whether they were alert or awake — those consuming the combination energy-alcohol drinks reported twice as much stimulation as those drinking alcohol alone. They tended to report less sedation and fewer symptoms like tiredness or sleepiness. “The disconnect between what you feel and how you act is what is the problem here,” she says, noting that these participants continued to feel stimulated and never came down off their alcohol buzz. “Stimulation may not be a good thing when you’re drinking because you may drink longer, decide to stay at a party where you’re drinking longer, and drink far more than you originally intended.”

Interestingly, Marczinski says, by combining these results with other work she has done on energy drinks, she found that it’s not energy drinks’ primary ingredient, caffeine, that’s problematic. Rather, it’s the mix of other awakening ingredients in the beverages that may be contributing to the enhanced alcohol high. When she compared the stimulation ratings between those who drank beverages made only from caffeine powder and those who drank alcoholic energy drinks, she found that the combination resulted in far greater alertness than the caffeine alone. “I always thought that it was a marketing thing when they mention the other things they put in like taurine, glucose and ginseng,” she says. “But I think they do facilitate that stimulation; it’s not just the caffeine.”

Marczinski was able to assess changes in behavior only 45 minutes after the participants enjoyed their drinks, so she didn’t record any increase in impaired judgment or behavior, but, she says, that may be because the subjects weren’t monitored long enough.

Even so, the increased stimulation and impulsivity makes the combination of alcohol and energy drinks a dangerous one, especially for underage drinkers who may think they are capable of drinking more than their limit, or even driving after a party. “Even with just alcohol alone, young, underage drinkers are bad at deciding how safe a driver they are, but I think this would make that situation far worse,” Marczinski says. And it’s just another reminder not to drink and drive — no matter what combination of spirits you’re consuming.

Gay Friendly Communities Are Good for Straight Teens Too….

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April 19th, 2011

A spate of suicides involving gay teens last fall reignited concern among youth activists and health experts over the disproportionately high rate of suicide among gay American teens. Now, a survey of high-school students in Oregon highlights a key risk factor for suicide — living in a socially and politically conservative area — not only among lesbian, gay and bisexual teens, but in heterosexual kids too.

The survey of nearly 32,000 11th-graders found that suicide attempts by lesbian, gay and bisexual teens were 20% more likely in conservative communities that were unsupportive of gays — areas with fewer same-sex couples, fewer registered Democrats, and schools that lacked gay-straight alliances or policies against bullying gay students — compared with communities that scored high on the researchers’ “social index.” That difference in risk persisted, even after researchers accounted for other suicide risk factors such as depression and bullying.

What’s more, the rate of suicide attempts among straight teens in conservative communities was also higher — by 9% — than in areas that were more politically and socially liberal. The finding suggests that widespread acceptance and support contribute to the well-being of all community members, not just those who identify with minority groups.

“The results of this study are pretty compelling,” said the study’s lead investigator, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement. “When communities support their gay young people, and schools adopt anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that specifically protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempted suicide by all young people drops, especially for LGB youth.”

Still, according to the 2006-08 survey, gay teens were much more likely to have attempted suicide in the last year than their straight peers: among gay teens, the attempted suicide rate was a whopping 21.5% overall — five times higher than among straight teens.

Religious women use contraception regularly……

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April 14th, 2011

Most sexually active women use contraception, regardless of their religious beliefs, says a report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization working to advance reproductive and sexual health  in the U.S. and worldwide.

“Regardless of religious affiliation, the majority of women use highly effective contraception methods, so any efforts to restrict access to these methods is going to impact these populations,” said Rachel K. Jones, the lead author.

The report was based on a U.S. government survey that represented the nation. The data came from 2006-2008 interviews of over 7,000 women aged 15-44.

It found that 69% of sexually active women from any denomination were using highly effective birth control methods including sterilization, the pill or other hormonal method, or an intrauterine device (IUD). In addition, almost all have reported contraceptive use at some point, a figure that is similar among Catholic women.

Another key finding was that 68% of Catholics use one of the highly effective methods, but only 2% rely on natural family planning. That number is comparable to 73% of Mainline Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals.

“A lot of times, religion is either not associated with contraception at all, or, in the case of the Catholic church, being against contraception.” Jones added. “In the real world, women who have religious beliefs and who attend church also use contraception.”

In addition, male or female sterilization was most common in the Evangelical church; more than four in 10 women of this denomination use the method.

And marital status did not change things.

“Across religious denominations, married women are using highly effective contraceptive methods,” she said.

Said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “These findings show yet again that birth control is a common practice — and a common need — for women of different faiths and backgrounds.

“As Congress considers yet another effort to bar Planned Parenthood from providing family planning services through federal health programs, it should listen to the message these findings convey.”

Booze: Is it friend or foe?

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April 11th, 2011

It shows that for men 10% of all cancers can be traced back to alcohol, for women the figure is 3%.

And the more you drink the greater the risk.

But when you look at the wider effect on health, the message is more confusing. This centers around the red-wine effect, where a small amount is thought to benefit heart health.

However long-term excessive alcohol consumption is clearly deadly. Alcoholic liver disease accounts for approximately 5,000 deaths in the UK each year.

The latest study shows that the dangers of drinking escalate quickly, especially for cancers which have already been linked to alcohol such as esophagus, liver, bowel and breast cancers.

In men who regularly drink less than a pint and a half of beer, 3% of these cancers were linked to alcohol.

For those who had more, the figures go up to 18%.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “I think what becomes quite clear out of this study is that there is a link between the amount that people drink and the risk, so the more that people drink the more they will be at risk.”
‘Better with alcohol’

But several studies have reported the benefits of drinking in moderation.

In February, the Institute for Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary published an analysis of decades of research on the subject.

It showed a 14% to 25% reduction in heart disease in moderate drinkers compared with those who had never consumed alcohol.

One of the challenges here is the definition of moderate. The effect was noticed in those regularly drinking between 2.5g and 14.9g of alcohol. One small glass of wine contains approximately 12g.

At the time, the lead researcher, Professor William Ghali, told the BBC: “Our extensive review shows that drinking one or one to two drinks would be favorable.

“There is this potentially slippery slope, most notably with social problems and alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, but the overall mortality including cancer and accidents shows you would be better with alcohol.”

Although as Ellen Mason, from the British Heart Foundation, warns: “Drinking more than the recommended daily maximum appears to offer no protection at all and can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

“If you don’t drink alcohol already there is no reason to start just because of the potential heart health benefits. There are much safer and healthier ways to look after your heart, like getting physically active, eating a healthy, balanced diet and stopping smoking.”

Professor Karol Sikora, the medical director of Cancer Partners UK, said: “On balance a small amount does no harm. Once you go above two slugs a day then you get into the danger zone. Although people always underestimate how much they drink.

“I’ve got friends coming over tonight and I will be cracking open a bottle, maybe a few.”

Lay Down Some Rubber…

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April 8th, 2011

In terms of safe sex, are you smarter than a 12th grader? Maybe not. Groundbreaking new research on sexual health from Indiana University found that condom use is routine for teens, but not for adults.

While female teenagers use condoms nearly 60 percent of the time, women ages 25 to 34 use this kind of protection for a mere 24 percent of their sexual encounters, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. And even though condoms don’t offer 100 percent protection against sexually transmitted infections, they’re your best bet for helping prevent the spread of chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, HPV, and herpes. “You need to have zero tolerance for anyone who is unwilling to use a condom,” says urologist Jennifer Berman, M.D., an expert in female sexual medicine, who points out that one in five adults has an STD and that many of these diseases, such as gonorrhea, are on the rise.

Not-So-Safe Sex

Why are we so passive about protection? For one, many adults in their twenties and thirties are in monogamous relationships. “When you’re in a stable relationship, you are less concerned about sexual infections or pregnancy, so you may forgo using a condom,” says Michael Reece, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and one of the study’s authors. Being coupled up can also give some people a false sense of security. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many STDs, including herpes and HPV, can have easy-to-miss symptoms and in some cases no symptoms at all, so you might be unaware that you (or your partner) are infected. Unless you’ve both been tested, you don’t know for sure if you’re in the clear.

Even if you and your guy have been tested, experts say there’s still a place for condoms in your relationship. “Condoms are a highly effective form of birth control; they’re almost 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly,” says Leslie M. Kantor, the national director of education initiatives for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Plus, they’re cheap, easy to use, and hormone-free, and they don’t require a prescription.

And contrary to popular belief, condoms don’t have to stand in the way of good sex. “Some people think condoms detract from the flow of the experience or take away from their partner’s pleasure, or their own,” says Kantor. But the study also found that adults who use condoms during sex are just as likely to rate the experience positively in terms of arousal, pleasure, and orgasm as when there’s no love glove.

Make Protection Pleasurable

Condoms now come with some spine-tingling bells and whistles.

“Many are thinner than the condoms of 10 years ago,” says Reece. “They’re available in a range of shapes, sizes, textures, and scents. Some even come with vibrating rings that stimulate both the penis and the clitoris.”

What’s more, you can turn the sometimes-awkward act of putting on a condom into a pleasurable one. Linger for a while, stroking his penis before and as you slip the latex over him. Just be sure to leave some room at the end (if there isn’t a built-in reservoir tip) to prevent breakage. To increase the sensation—and pleasure—for both you and your man during sex, Kantor suggests putting a bit of water-based lubricant on the inside and outside of the condom.

A few more perks: “A condom can help a man sustain an erection longer,” says Kantor. And many women feel more relaxed and in-the- moment when they know they’ve greatly reduced their risk of becoming pregnant or contracting an STD. All of these things can make the sexual experience more satisfying for both of you and increase your chances of reaching orgasm.