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Today, I’m joining educators across the U.S. to kick off National Drug Facts Week by offering up my own shout-out for educating teens about drug abuse. Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Drug Facts Week is an official health observance designed to shatter the myths and spread the facts about drug abuse and addiction. To learn more about today’s “CyberShoutout” in support of National Drug Facts Week, checkout Sara Bellum Blog.
My discussion today will start off with a brief understanding of the world of drugs. Then I will delve deep into current data that looks at the prevalence of illegal drug use in the U.S. and current research that will take us to some interesting places. By the end of the article, I hope to provide insightful knowledge that teens can use to prevent illicit drug and alcohol use.
When discussing drugs, it’s best to understand that they can be categorized into four groups (image courtesy of David McCandless of Information Is Beautiful). It’s interesting to note that Cannabis falls right in the center as the “Super Drug,” and that Alcohol is categorized as a “Depressant.”
8.0% of persons 12 years of age and over have used illicit drug in the past month.
5.8% of persons 12 years of age and over have used marijuana use in the past month.
2.8% of persons 12 years of age and over have used a psychotherapeutic drug (for non-medical use) in the past month.
Also, a report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy found that even though there is a “significant downturn in usage levels, they remain at high levels and it has been shown that the earlier drug use is initiated, the more likely a person is to develop drug problems later in life.” It goes without saying that there are a number of health effects that can undermine a teen’s academic performance, peer and family relations, and even lead to increased chances of juvenile delinquencies. In relation to excessive alcohol consumption and marijuana use, a recent report published in the January 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (summary found HERE) found that “drinking during adolescence alters normal developmental processes in a way that negatively impacts learning and social adjustment into adulthood.” In other words…alcohol consumption is associated with BRAINDAMAGE! To learn more about U.S. trends for teen illicit drug use, please visit the following LINK.
I want to share three pieces of research that have been conducted this year.
When food companies have to slap a sticker claiming they use “all natural” ingredients, I start to question if it’s truly natural ingredients I’m consuming. I decided to take the initiative to do some research and determine what is meant by “all-natural” and how companies are able to make such claims – which are often misleading.
One medical doctor (Dr. Mercola) states that an “all natural” food label claim means “Zero. Zilch. Nada. Zip;” and when you attempt to find a definition for the phrase “all natural,” you can notice that nothing is set in stone:
“Natural foods” and “all natural foods” are widely used terms with various meanings and no legal definition. Natural foods are not necessarily organic foods: - wikipedia.com
Food that contains no artificial ingredients (eg, colors, flavors, preservatives and other chemicals) and is only minimally processed (so the raw product is not fundamentally altered): - vansfoods.com
Made without artificial ingredients or preservatives. - snackaisle.com
To my understanding, the FDA checks food labels, to see whether or not the Nutrition Facts panel is visible, rather than the accuracy of the information. In addition, the FDA allows for food labels to be no more then 20 percent off before it violates federal law and that 10% of all food labels contain inaccuracies in what they report.”
So, what can you do?
Buying locally is a start. Check out your local farmer’s market where you can purchase products without additives, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. Also, you are supporting the sustainability of these local farmers.
Read the ingredients of the foods you are purchasing. The more natural the food is, the less ingredients it will contain.
When shopping at your local grocery store, look for Non-GMO products (Organic Certified). Even then I question organic certified foods, but requirements to get organically certified by the USDA are more stringent and it’s an alternative for shoppers who don’t have access to a farmer’s market.
If you have an iPhone, you can download a Non-GMO shopping guide free from the App store by searching “ShopNoGMO.”
Buying healthy, safe foods might require you to put in some effort as far as preparing in advance and to knowing what to look for, but in the end your are doing it for your health.
At TEDxChange, Melinda Gates makes a provocative case for nonprofits taking a cue from corporations such as Coca-Cola, whose plugged-in, global network of marketers and distributors ensures that every remote village wants — and can get — a Coke. Why shouldn’t this work for condoms, sanitation, vaccinations too?
About Melinda Gates
As co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda French Gates helps shape and approve foundation strategies, review results, advocate for foundation issues and set the overall direction of the organization.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health with vaccines and other life-saving tools and giving them a chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to dramatically improve education so that all young people have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Authors: Huang, S.C., Wei, JC-C, and Huang (2010); Y-C. European J. of Clinic. Nutr.
Review: Ali Al-Rajhi, MPH
Huang et al. (2010) investigated if there were benefits of B6 supplementation on inflammatory and immune responses with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. The study design was a single-blind co-intervention at a Taiwanese hospital. The control group (n=15) were given 5 mg/day of folic acid while the experimental group (n=20) were given 5 mg/day of folic acid and 100mg/day of vitamin B6. Over a 12 week period measurements were taken of plasma PLP, serum folate, inflammatory parameters (e.g., hs-CRP, ESR, IL-6, TNF-a), and immune parameters (e.g., white blood cell, total lymphocyte, T-cell, B-cell, T-helper cell, T-suppressor). Overall, researchers found that patients with RA, supplementation with 100 mg/day doses of B6 “suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-a).”
The first strength I noticed was an aspect of the research methodology; researchers took the effort to stay in constant contact with all their participants through weekly reminders to take their tablets and have them log their diet (via 24 diet recall at week 0 and 12) before their clinical visit. I believe the small study population made it feasible to stay in consistent contact and it ensured higher compliance. Also, researchers eliminated the interference of folate metabolism by methotrexate (usually taken to treat RA) by co-intervening folic acid into the study.
There were weaknesses in the study as well. The obvious was the low study population. The p-values for all of the measures were either not significant or approaching a trend, expect for plasma interleukin-6. Another limitation were the inclusion of patients taking methotrexate; this should be more of an exclusion factor. Also, I believe the population samples was likely to be homogeneous (Taiwanese), which cannot be generalizable to other poulations and there were far fewer men then women that participated (2 of 15 in control and 3 of 17 in experimental). The limitations that the researchers indicated include the loss of eight patients may have “decreased the degree of effect of plasma PLP on inflammatory and immune response,” that the study was a “single-blind rather than a double-blind study,” and “the short disease duration of our patients.”
There is potential for future research to strength the potential claims this paper found. First, increasing the study population to a number that is found in similar research that contain similar population characteristics. Second, establishing more stringent exclusion factors such as not allowing patients traking methotrexate. Lastly, establishing a double-blind study versus the single-blind design that was chosen for the study.
The index found that Asia and Latin America reduced “their hunger indices by more than 40 percent since 1990,” AFP writes. “A handful of African countries also substantially reduced hunger – Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique – but in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the problem worsened or remained stagnant
A wide variety of foods is recommended for optimal health, with our complex systems, functions and structures requiring a broad spectrum of nutrients. Yet, we find many of our population limit their selection to only a few foods and a narrow array of nutrients.
Ali Al-Rajhi writes with the purpose of informing individuals in the Public Health field about pressing issues in environmental health, public health policy, epidemiology, and behavioral health. Learn more here.