BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for May, 2019

Energy drinks are those beverages that boost or accelerate physical and mental performance. They are functional beverages that are formulated and enjoyed by a range of people especially those in need of additional mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time. Second to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed worldwide particularly by teens and young adults since they are widely promoted as products that increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance. Due to their function, energy drinks contain some stimulants, the most common being Caffeine. Other stimulants contained in some brands of energy drinks include guarana and ginseng which are plant-based stimulants. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the quantity of caffeine in one energy drink can range from 80mg- which is similar to the amount in one cup of coffee, to over 500mg. Energy drinks also contain high amounts of sugar, usually about 30grams in a 250 ml bottle or can.

Several studies have reported that energy drinks have negative health effects and consequences. More specifically, a 2013 study reported by Medical News Today, found that energy drinks alter the heart function of healthy adults. Additionally, another study found an association between energy drink consumption and other unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking.

Irrespective of the specific contents of energy drinks, they are generally not recommended for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and people who are sensitive to caffeine. Energy drinks begin to act once caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream. This happens within 10 minutes of consumption and this causes a rise in heart rate and blood pressure. Afterward, the level of caffeine in the blood stream peaks within an hour resulting in increased alertness and improved concentration. The negative effects of energy drinks are based on the fact that caffeine is a sly drug that temporarily blocks adenosine pathways. Adenosine is important because it is the chemical that communicates ones level of tiredness to the brain. As caffeine levels increase, it triggers the increased release of dopamine- the ‘feel good’ molecules in the brain. Consequently, the individual feels more alert and better about him/herself. However, caffeine withdrawal which causes headaches and tiredness can occur about 20 hours after consumption. In addition, the liver soaks up more sugar in response to energy drinks which is unhealthy.  It is noteworthy that in 2014, World Health Organization branded energy drinks a “danger to public health,” following the discovery that consuming such drinks increased.

Alcohol is a clear, colorless liquid produced by fermenting or distilling various fruits, vegetables or grains. It is a type of depressant that slows down parts of the brain affecting thinking, behavior, breathing and heart rate. Millions of men and women of all ages, from adolescents to adults, engage in alcohol use because it is legal in most countries and is an essential component of many beverages or drinks. The color of alcoholic beverages depend their ingredients and the process of fermentation or distillation employed. Fermented beverages include beer and wine, which usually have a maximum alcohol content of about 15%. Distilled beverages on the other hand, also known as hard liquor or spirit such as rum, whisky and vodka, have much higher alcohol content.

Despite being available in different forms, alcohol has the same narcotic effects and should be consumed moderately. Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling one’s drinking, causing preoccupation with alcohol and continuation of use even in the face of problems. Unhealthy and unsafe consumption of alcohol includes binge drinking and any use that puts an individual’s health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. Individuals with alcohol use disorder exhibit patterns of drinking that result in repeated significant distress and problems in performing daily life functions. These disorders can be mild to severe; however, mild disorders have the capacity to escalate and result in serious problems, hence early treatment is crucial.

Globally, alcohol abuse is the seventh leading risk factor for injury, disease and death. Besides tobacco, alcohol accounts for higher burden of disease than any other drug- it is the major cause of preventable liver disease. Common signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder include inability to control the amount consumed, spending too much time drinking or recovering from alcohol use, craving alcohol, failing to fulfill responsibilities at work or home or school due to alcohol use, continuing to drink alcohol even when it causes significant physical or social problems, compromising other activities and hobbies because of alcohol, using alcohol in unsafe situations such as when driving, developing a higher tolerance to alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating and shaking.

Short term effects of alcohol abuse are memory loss, hangovers, slurred speech and blackouts. Long-term effects include stomach and heart problems, addiction, intoxication, cancer, brain damage, permanent memory loss, pancreatitis, high blood pressure and cirrhosis or scarring on the liver.

Abstention from or drinking alcohol in moderation are the only ways to prevent the negative consequences that results from alcohol abuse. Drinking in moderation means having no more than one drink daily for women and not more than two for men. One drink equals:

  • 1.5 ounces of liquor (like whisky, rum, or tequila)
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) refers to the treatments and procedures that are carried out in order to achieve pregnancy. These complex procedures are options for people who have infertility problems or genetic diseases and therefore require a form of assistance for a healthy and successful conception. According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ART comprises all fertility treatments where eggs and embryos are handled. Generally, ART procedures involve the surgical removal of eggs from a woman’s ovaries, mixing them with sperm in the laboratory to be fertilized, and then transferring them to the woman’s, or another woman’s uterus for implantation.

There are different types of ART and some of them include:

  1. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): This is a procedure where a man’s sperm is injected into a woman’s uterus with the aid of a long, narrow and hollow tube similar to a straw. IUI is most effective for treating infertility in the following situations:  scarring or defects on the cervix, low sperm counts or mobility, erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation and in couples who experience difficulty having intercourse. IUI can be used in combination with medications that stimulate ovulation to increase the chances of pregnancy. The success of IUI usually depends on the cause of infertility, use of fertility medications, age of the female and other factors that could impact the success of the cycle.
  2. In-vitro Fertilization (IVF): IVF represents the most common method of ART with a higher success rate compared to others. During IVF procedure, eggs and sperm from the couple are mixed and incubated in the laboratory for fertilization to occur. Following fertilization and the subsequent production of an embryo, a health care provider places the embryo into the woman’s uterus, where it may implant and result in a successful pregnancy. Stages of IVF include superovulation, egg retrieval, fertilization and embryo transfer.
  3. Third Party Assisted ART: In situations where couples do not achieve pregnancy from the above options, they may choose to use a third party–assisted ART method to get pregnant. Third party assistance can consist of one or more of the following: sperm or egg donation, surrogates or gestational carriers and embryo donation.

Despite the benefits of ART in alleviating the burden of infertility on individuals and families, it presents significant challenges to public health. ART increases the risks and rates of multiple pregnancies, preterm delivery, and low birth-weight. Multiple pregnancy babies have a much higher risk of being born prematurely, as well as having a low birth weight and disabilities. Additionally, the risk of certain complications is higher when pregnant with multiples and this requires a closer and more frequent prenatal care.

Globally, ART has presented ethical, legal, and social challenges and concerns that society must address. Many countries have therefore taken steps to regulate certain aspects of ART. Consequently, monitoring the outcomes of technologies that affect reproduction, such as contraception and ART, is an important public health activity 

Secondhand smoke can be described as any smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It also includes smoke exhaled or breathed out by smokers. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemical, most of which are either toxic or carcinogenic. Non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke are referred to as involuntary or passive smokers. They inhale nicotine and toxic chemicals from tobacco the same way smokers do.  There is currently no risk-free level of exposure to second hand smoke and it affects every organ in the body. Some individuals may experience severe health problems and physical reactions may occur despite short periods or low levels of exposure. Immediate reactions including heart attack and stroke are not uncommon. Other reactions include increased heart rate, reduced supply of oxygen to the heart and narrowed blood vessels which upsurge blood pressure and cause greater burden or workload for the heart. In pregnant women, second-hand smoke may result in greater risks of miscarriages, premature birth and babies with low birth weight.

Regular exposure to second-hand smoke can cause as much harm as that found in smokers, however, the risk and severity of harm are dependent on the amount and length of exposure.

The long term effects of second-hand smoke include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Nasal sinus cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing, pneumonia and asthma

Secondhand smoke has been associated with cancer even in people who have never smoked. More specifically, it has been linked to certain cancers in adults such as cancers of the larynx, pharynx, brain, breast, bladder and rectum. In children, it has been associated with, lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer and brain tumors. Additionally, several studies have found a link between second hand smoke and mental or emotional challenges such as depression. More research is however needed to better understand this link. The only way to avoid the effects of second hand smoke is by creating a smoke-free environment: making homes, work places, schools and cars smoke-free. Using air purifiers and ventilation systems will not remove all the toxins and chemicals found in second-hand smoke. These substances remain in rooms for hours, even with open windows and one can still be exposed because the particles are either suspended in air or settled on surfaces such as carpets, curtains, furniture and clothes.

To help reduce second hand smoke, some countries have laws that ban smoking in buildings, as well as public and shared spaces.