Tag Archives: health

Energy Drinks: Drink Fast, Die Young

With over 20 billion dollars in sales last year in the United States sales alone, it is safe to say that energy drink consumption is not slowing down. The “dangerous” and “bad-boy” names, such as Monster, Rockstar, and Cocaine, are clearly meant to target a younger market. In fact, Cocaine energy drink’s packaging even reads: “Warning- this beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, fun and possible feeling of euphoria.

A few of the numerous brands of energy drinks
Image Source: Flickr Commons

 Ignoring the high levels of sugar, the main culprit in energy drinks remains the caffeine content. As they are considered “nutritional supplements”, energy drink companies can ignore the caffeine limits set by the USA Food and Drug Administration. On a cup-to-cup basis, it appears that energy drinks do not contain much more caffeine than coffee, though brands vary.

Caffeine content per cup (8 oz.):                                                          Energy Drinks 40-150 mg                                                                                            Generic Black Coffee 35-100 mg                                                                                      Black Tea 14-61mg                                                                                                                    Coca-Cola 20-23mg

However, energy drinks such as Monster are generally sold in large 16 oz. cans, doubling the caffeine intake to 80-300 mg. For the average healthy adult, whose daily caffeine limit is approximately 400 mg, one or two cups of coffee and an energy drink later in the day may not be an issue. The problem arises, however, with overconsumption in teenagers, who continue to be the main consumers of the product. The daily recommended caffeine limit for teens is much lower, at approximately 100 mg. A single energy drink can exceed this limit and doesn’t account for any other sources of caffeine throughout the day.

Overconsumption of caffeine has been associated with numerous negative health effects from tremors, cardiovascular problems, to mental health issues. A study from the University of Waterloo found a positive relationship between teen energy drink overconsumption, depression, and substance addiction. “The trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern,” said Azagba, the main researcher on the project.

Initial effects of caffeine overdoses
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

            As teen energy drink overdoses continue, there has been a call to limit their availability for those under 18. Attempts to pass this bill in Maryland, USA, are met with controversy. The short clip below, courtesy of WBAL-TV 11 News Baltimore, reports on the situation:

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 Should we actually ban the sale of energy drinks to minors, or fine them for “possession” as the video suggests? Probably not. Restricting materials to minors, such as alcohol, is often fraught with complications. Additionally, many other energizing caffeine products would still be widely available. Ultimately, public education on the subject is key. Individuals have to be aware of their own limitations when it comes to consuming products; everything is harmful at a certain dose.  Know your limit and stay within it.

-Richelle Eger


 “Dieticians of Canada.” Food Sources of Caffeine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. <http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Caffeine/Food-Sources-of-Caffeine.aspx>.

 “Energy Drinks Linked to Teen Health Risks.” ScienceDaily. N.p., 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014 <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306- 095358.htm>.

Is Obesity Caused By Pollutants Around Us?

If you are trying earnestly to maintain your weight, you may have the phrase “watch what you eat” in mind.  Junk food and sweets are out, but the question you forgot to ask is: should you be wary of other foods on your plate as well? The answer is yes.  

Studies have revealed that Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) play an indirect role in adding fat mass to the body.  People are affected by the environment because all our needs ultimately come from the surroundings and these very pollutants are able to enter your diet to alter the endocrine system, organ function, tissues, as well as fat cells.

Where Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Come From

Predominantly used as pesticides, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are now under restricted usageThese chemicals were created for industrial processes and were also released as by-products. 

Smog filled with pollutants created from factories easily reach neighbouring crop fields.
Source: Gustavo Madico, Flickr

Once exposed to the environment, POPs travel far and wide, made possible by its resistance to most chemical and biological processes in normal degradation.  Naturally, animals consume available POPs, leading to its bioaccumulation  in tissues.  The problem is then amplified with biomagnification in food webs, and humans are, of course, at the top of the food chain.

This video by Sustainable Consumption and Production Regional Activity Centre summarizes the impact of POPs:

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The Link to Obesity

Since POPs accumulate in fatty tissues of animals, we consume them when our meal includes fatty fish, meat, and dairy products.

Fatty fish are victims of POP bioaccumulation.
Source: Ivan Walsh, Flickr

An increasing number of studies are finding a strong link between POPs and body weight.  POPs have been shown to affect key endocrine pathways in the human fatty tissue and there is a strong correlation between the expression of obesity marker genes (determinants of obesity) and POP concentrations.  In another study, a group of mice tested with a high-fat diet containing high POP levels gained more visceral body fat then the group of mice with a low-fat diet.   This indicated that metabolic processes were altered, leading to obesity and insulin resistance, which can progress to Type 2 Diabetes.  In fact, diabetes poses a possibly even more harmful health problem than obesity itself!

Possible Solutions

Despite the fact that POPs are highly regulated to limit its toxic effects, they can still be found in many environments because of the movement within food chains.  Does this mean you should lose all faith in the foods you eat? Hopefully not! As further research gives more evidence to support the causal role of POPs, awareness will increase and perhaps POPs will no longer be put in use.

It may be helpful to eat food grown with fewer pesticides, but a normal, balanced diet without excessive amounts of fatty fish and meat should be fine.

Post by Madeleine Tsoi

Death by Sitting

Source: El Alvi from Flickr

Sitting too much is bad for you.  Everyone knows that.  As long as you follow the recommendation of 150 mins of exercise a week, you’ll be fine, right?


Sitting is a great way to relax for people.  Whether it be to rest during a car ride or to focus on some work, humans like to sit.  This is quite notable with the availability of chairs almost everywhere — in restaurants, in theaters, in cars, at homes, in parks, at bus stops etc.  It is a great way to rest the body when there isn’t much to do, without taking as much space as lying down.

Source: loop_oh from Flickr

With today’s modern lifestyle, many people are sitting pretty much all day everyday. For example, students sit to eat meals, sit during travels, sit during class and sit to do work.  Sure, sitting is very useful and comfortable. But this comes at a cost. Not only are there problems associated with bad posture, its harmfulness to human health has earned it the slogan ‘sitting is the new smoking‘.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a paper which claims that each hour of sitting while watching TV will reduce a person’s lifespan by 21.8 min.  The study suggests that someone who watches an average of 6 hr of TV a day throughout their entire life would die 4.8 years earlier than someone who has not watched any TV.

There is also a popular belief that sitting time can be negated by exercise time.  But like I said at the start, that isn’t true.  A recent study published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that every additional hour of sitting (after sitting for 9 hr) was correlated with a doubling of disability risk. This held true in the study regardless of how much the person exercised.

Example of a Standing Desk
Source: Simplified Building from Flickr

Studies from the Journal of American College of Cardiology and PubMed also found that the increased mortality rates due to sitting persisted despite high levels of physical activity.

Does this mean that we are all doomed to die under the hands of sitting? Worry not!  There are solutions!  People have come up with products such as standing desks or even treadmill desks…where you can walk while working.  However, It would be much easier (and free) to just move around for 20 seconds for every 20 mins of sitting.

– David Ng

Artificial Organs?

Imagine if you or someone you know desperately needed an organ transplant and had to wait months to years for a chance to receive one. This is currently happening to people all over the world and according to the Globe and Mail the average wait transplant wait time in British Columbia is 2,145 days, which is far greater than the national average of 1,258 days. Such a long wait could be disastrous for patients and could even prove fatal if they don’t get a transplant in time. But what if there was a solution to this problem? This brings in the concept of human created artificial organs. As the name suggests artificial organs are created in synthetically using newly discovered scientific methods.

From Wikipedia Commons

The first case of a synthetic organ transplant happened in July 2011, when Swedish surgeons implanted the first synthetic trachea in a 36 year old cancer patient. The trachea was created to be nearly identical to the patient’s original organ by using a 3D laser scan and then using that they were able to craft a nearly identical organ. They also immersed the synthetic wind pipe in a stem cell solution which was created from the patient’s bone marrow.  A major benefit from this new method is that antirejection drugs are no longer required since the immune system would recognize the organ and would not attack it.

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Also other body parts could be replaced, for example the jaw bone for an 83 year old woman was replaced in 2012. The artificial jaw bone was created using a 3D printer based on a scan of her original bone that was damaged due to a bone infection. This scan was then used in a 3D printer and the new jaw was created out of titanium.

Although we are currently unable to replace vital organs such as kidneys, we may be able to do it in the future as science is always advancing and new discoveries are made everyday.

By: Justin

A Grip on Reality: The Future of Prosthetics

The human body has five basic senses: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. Now take a minute and imagine your life without one of them. It’s easy to realize that we as humans rely on our senses for almost everything we do. Yet there are many people in the world, such as amputees, that do not have one or multiple senses.

Dennis Aabo Sørensen, a man from Denmark, became an amputee almost nine years ago when he lost his left hand in an accident. Although he was using a prosthetic hand, he had permanently lost the ability to feel anything from his hand. That is until recently when he became the first human to try the new bionic hand that allows you to feel what you touch with a prosthetic.

Image from Google Images

The scientists at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa (SSSA) designed the bionic hand prototype that will allow people like Dennis to feel objects in real-time using sensory feedback technology. The bionic hand works by measuring the force it takes for the tendons in the artificial hand to grasp an object. Once the measurement of force is identified, the tendons send electrical impulses through wires to the electrodes that have been surgically connected to the nerves of the actual arm. Although it seems like the impulse is not instantly sent to the brain, it actually happens in a matter of seconds to give the feeling of real-time. In the following video Silvestro Micera provides a more in-depth preview of the bionic hand and Dennis Aabo Sørensen describes his initial thoughts on this new technology.

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Although this technology is still years away from being commercially available, it is still a great achievement in the medical world. I believe the next steps in this project would be to figure out how to make this technology available in portable prosthetics and how much it would cost for the general public. Having said that, this technology holds great promises for people like Dennis who have been unable to experience their life fully due to their lost sense. Many individuals can now look forward to a brighter future in the world of prosthetics.

Vishav Gill