Entries in Drinking (29)


MIT Student Invents LED Ice Cubes to Track Alcohol Intake

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An MIT grad student is turning a bad party night into a product with potential.

It was fall semester last year when 23-year-old Dhairya Dand decided to hit up a party at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Several hours later, he found himself in the hospital.  He’d had an alcohol-induced blackout.

From the hospital room, Dand went back to MIT’s Media Lab, where he’s a researcher, and spent the next three weeks inventing Cheers -- alcohol-aware ice cubes that glow and groove to ambient music.  More importantly, the ice cubes change colors if you’ve had a few too many. 

When he presented the idea to his friends, they weren’t so cool on the idea.

“They joked around when I told them I was going to make these ice cubes in reflection to what I went through at the party,” said Dand.  “That’s normal.  With every new thing there is resistance.”

In an online video, Dand demonstrates how the cubes change as they respond to the amount of alcohol a person consumes.  An accelerometer keeps track of how often the glass is raised to someone’s lips; a timer helps estimate how intoxicated the person is.

The LED inside each cube will light up in green, yellow or red.  Green signals a first drink; yellow is a warning that your alcohol level is getting high.  Red is a warning to stop drinking -- you’ve probably had too much. 

Dand housed the electronics in waterproof cubes.  The cubes can even send a text message to friends if the person drinking needs help.

“The cubes talk to your phone to make the call.  They communicate over IR [infrared] with a custom removable IR receiver fitted on the smartphone’s audio jack,” said Dand.

Since he came out with his invention, Dand said, “Everyone wants a dozen now!”  And since he only spent $50 plus his own time creating it, Dand may have an idea that’s budget-friendly for grad students.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Year, New Headache? Hangover Cures and Myths

Steve Mason/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After the Times Square ball drops on New Year’s Eve and copious amounts of champagne get toasted and drunk, many might find themselves forgetting more ”auld acquaintances” than they intended and waking up to 2013 with a vicious hangover.

A hangover is essentially a build-up of acetaldehyde, a toxin in the liver.  When one overdoes it on the booze, the liver can’t produce enough glutathione, a compound that contains the amino acid L-cysteine, to combat it.  Cysteine breaks down acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, which is then flushed out of the body as urine.

While nothing has been shown scientifically to “cure” a hangover, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief medical editor, offered these tips to help nurse the pain:

  • Drink plenty of water.  Alcohol is quite dehydrating.
  • If you have a headache, take aspirin or ibuprofen the next morning, not acetaminophen (Tylenol).  Acetaminophen is processed by your liver that has just taken a hit from your overdrinking.
  • Go to bed.  Most hangovers are over after eight to 24 hours.

Other suggestions from past contributors to ABC News include how to avoid a hangover while still slugging back the brewskies, and what to do if the hangover arrives anyway:

While You’re Boozing:

1. Sip Slowly

If you drink your alcohol slowly instead of guzzling it down, doctors say it helps give the stomach a fighting chance to absorb the toxins so your body isn’t assaulted with booze.

2. Eat Fatty Foods

Food products with a lot of fat in them, such as chips, can help slow down the absorption of alcohol.

3. Avoid Carbonated Drinks

Doctors say carbonation can increase the absorption of alcohol, so put down the rum and Coke.

The Morning After:

1. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Time will heal all wounds.

2. Flush Your System

When you are dehydrated, your body is depleted of potassium and sodium, which is why you have that achy “hit by a dump truck” feeling the next morning.  Doctors say try to replenish your body with lots of fluids.  Drink water or drinks that are heavy in electrolytes, such as sports drinks or coconut water.

3. Be Leery of Caffeine

Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic, which can further dehydrate your body after drinking, making the headache much worse, so doctors recommend extra water if you’re going to reach for a cup of coffee, tea or an energy drink.

But people who regularly drink minimal amounts of caffeine might find it helps soothe their headache.  While the causes of a hangover aren’t completely understood, a leading theory for the pounding headache is that alcohol dilates blood vessels in the brain and caffeine constricts the blood vessels, which might bring relief to some people.

4. Avoid the ‘Hair of the Dog’

While that Bloody Mary or extra pint of beer with breakfast the next morning sounds like a rallying move, doctors say more alcohol means more dehydration, meaning more hangover hurting.  Even if you don’t feel the pain now, you will later.

5. Have a Snack

According to the Mayo Clinic, bland foods, such as toast and crackers, can help boost blood sugar and settle your stomach.  Eating chicken noodle or bouillon soups, which are loaded with sodium and potassium, can help make you feel better.

Foods and drinks that contain fructose, such as honey, apples, berries or fruit juice, as well as vitamin C and B can also help burn off alcohol.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dining Out Poll Reveals Popular Eating and Drinking Habits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- How many Americans eat at fast food restaurants? How many of them always order dessert when dining out?

Researchers at Monmouth University sought to answer these questions, polling a random sample of  925 adults over the age of 18 to find out their dining preferences.

The poll found that one-third of Americans eat lunch or dinner at fast food restaurants, while 12 percent, or about one in ten, never eat fast food.

Salary didn’t appear to be a factor when it comes to restaurant choice, the poll found, as the participating adults who earn $100,000 were found to be just as likely to eat fast food as those earning less than $50,000.

“For me I thought it was surprising that adults at all incomes are eating fast food,” said Elizabeth Cooner, Assistant Director of the Polling Institute at Monmouth University.

“We don’t’ know what they’re ordering or how much they’re ordering,” said Keith Ayoob,  director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“Are they going there because it’s a really quick way to get a salad?” he asked, noting the new healthy options that fast food restaurants are offering.

Adults with incomes over $100,000 and recent college grads are also the more likely groups to order a drink when dining out, the poll found.

Twenty-two percent of adults always or often order an alcoholic beverage when dining out, and a little less than half never order one.  Although the adults surveyed were as young as 18, Cooner said that a very small number were under the legal drinking age.

Ayoob says the concern lies in the fact that “young people go out to eat more than eat dinner at home.”   Huge portion sizes and fried food can lead to poor choices, he said.

One in ten diners said they always order dessert, while 42 percent of diners never do.  Diners in the west and southeastern regions of the U.S. are more likely than those in the Midwest to order dessert.

“Portions can vary,” Ayoob said.  ”You don’t know if people are eating the whole thing.  A lot of health conscious people take only a few bites.”

Six out of ten diners were found to be adventurous eaters willing to try anything at least once.

“It did not surprise me that young adults have adventurous palates because there is so much exposure,” said Ayoob, adding that “television channels are dedicated to nothing but food.”

In the only open-ended question in the poll, half of the adults who ate at restaurants preferred Italian, American or Mexican cuisine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marriage Means More Drinking for Women, Less for Men

Cultura/Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- A study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association on Saturday found that married women drink more than previously married women, but married men drink less than previously married men.

Additionally, several women in the study said they did not drink alcohol at all until they met or married their husbands.

Sociological and psychological experts not involved with the research said the findings illustrate how individual behaviors tend to adjust in order to match those of people with whom they spend a great deal of time.

“People tend to do what others in the same flock do, if you spend more time with individuals that have a higher incidence of using drugs or alcohol you will develop similar habits,” said Richard Ager, associate professor at the Tulane School of Social Work in New Orleans. “People tend to engage in the behaviors of people they surround themselves with.”

Since single men tend to drink more than their single female counterparts, the idea that both sides converge toward an average level of drinking seems understandable.

“It appears that amongst couples, males and females gravitate toward a mutual midpoint with respect to alcohol use,” said Scott M. Bea, clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who also was not involved with the study. “That is, husbands drink a bit less and wives drink a bit more than their unmarried counterparts.”

But others said the findings could hint at something more deeply entwined with the marital relationship.

“The study findings appear to suggest that everyone’s alcohol use is, to some degree, related to the extent of stress in their lives,” Don R. Catherall, professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University.  “Long-term married women may have some additional stressors that [previously married] women do not and apparently derive less stress relief from their marital relationships than do men.”

For men, however, having a wife may serve as a stress-relieving substitute for that extra beer or scotch.

“Married males may experience their wives as sources of tension reduction,” Bea said. “There are studies that suggest that married males are happier than their unmarried counterparts.”

Despite the couples approaching a common drinking ground, on average men still drank more than women in every relationship category.

The study also looked into how drinking habits are affected when marriages end. The researchers found that while divorce causes men to drink more, women actually tend to go back to drinking less. Possible explanations for this, according to the researchers, could be that a husband’s heavy drinking may put couples at a higher risk of divorce. Another possibility is that, for men at least, the stress of the divorce may have prompted increased drinking.

Meanwhile, in the study participant interviews, an overwhelming majority of women said that either divorce depressed and turned them away from alcohol, or they drank less because they were no longer around their husbands drinking.

Despite this, women that were long-term divorced and recently divorced reported significantly more drinking-related problems than long-term married women. And while the research thus far is not sufficient to draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship between drinking-related problems and rates of divorce, it may help physicians better recognize risk factors for problem drinking that lurk within our social lives.

“As a culture, we might work toward educating individuals that are feeling isolated about their relative proneness to alcohol-related problems or overuse,” Bea said. “Helping these individuals develop support networks and other methods of coping might be useful interventions that may reduce the overuse of alcohol and, ultimately, alcohol-related difficulties.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


1 in 13 Pregnant Women Drink Alcohol

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Older and more educated women are more likely to drink alcohol during pregnancy, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Friday.

About one in 13 women drink while pregnant, according to the study, and out of those women, one in four reportedly binge drink.

The researchers examined more than 340,000 self-reported surveys that were a part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of data from women between the ages of 18 and 44.

More than 7 percent of pregnant women in the study reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, compared with 51 percent of women who were not pregnant.

Women in the study between the ages of 35 and 44 reported the highest amount of drinking while pregnant, at 14 percent.

U.S. public health officials and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourage women from consuming alcohol while pregnant because of its potential to harm the baby’s physical, emotional and cognitive development.

“Pregnant and nonpregnant women of childbearing age who misuse alcohol might benefit from public health interventions…such as increased alcohol excise taxes and limiting alcohol outlet density,” the authors wrote.

Dr. Michael Katz, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes, said the numbers were “troubling.”

While some past studies have reported that light drinking while pregnant does not harm the baby, Katz said women should stay away from alcohol completely during those nine months.

“We know that alcohol is very seriously damaging,” said Katz. “We don’t know if there is any safe level of drinking, but that’s a determination that will never be made."

“It’s ludicrous to suggest that one should even look for a safe level of alcohol while pregnant,” he continued. “There is a danger that will always be there with alcohol. Unlike some other risks during pregnancy that are unavoidable, this one is. It is fully controllable and it is not such an enormous effort not to drink.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Moderate Drinking While Pregnant May Not Be Harmful

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may not have any damaging developmental effects on children five years later, according to new research published Tuesday.

But, the authors stressed, pregnant women should still err on the side of caution and avoid alcohol altogether, since no safe level of alcohol consumption has been established.

In a series of five studies, Danish researchers statistically evaluated how different levels of drinking during pregnancy affected the 5-year-old children of 1,628 women.  They compared women who drank zero, one to four, five to eight, and more than nine drinks per week while they were pregnant and assessed their children's IQ, attention span and their capacity for what are known as executive functions, which include organization and planning.

Children whose mothers reported having one to four or five to eight drinks per week while pregnant did not perform any worse on tests measuring IQ and executive functions.  Binge drinking, which meant having five or more drinks in one sitting, also did not have any significant negative effect on children five years later.

Drinking more than nine drinks per week, however, was linked to 5-year-olds' lower attention span.

In the study, the researchers defined a drink as having 12 grams of pure alcohol.  In the U.S., a drink is considered to have 14 grams of pure alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the findings, the authors wrote that "the most conservative advice for women is not to drink alcohol during pregnancy" since there may still be adverse effects their research didn't uncover.

And in the U.S., government health agencies advocate total abstinence for expectant mothers, said Dr. Kimberly Fortner, assistant professor of maternal and fetal medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Smoking Hotlines Can Flag Problem Drinking

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Hotlines to help people quit smoking could also flag problem drinking, a new study found.

Yale researchers used surveys to probe alcohol use among 88,479 callers to the New York State Smoker’s Quitline and found nearly one-quarter of callers reported hazardous drinking as well.

“Once people start drinking, there is a trigger to start smoking,” said study author Benjamin Toll, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and director of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven’s Smoking Cessation Service. “They lose their inhibition to tobacco.”

The study was published Friday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Previous studies suggest alcohol abuse decreases the likelihood that smokers will quit using cigarettes, and that adding a brief alcohol intervention to standard smoking cessation treatments could improve success rates.

“The suggestion that tobacco quitlines may offer novel opportunities to reach alcoholics is rational, if not obvious,” said Dr. Stephen Jay, a professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. However, he cautions, “the use of tobacco quitlines for purposes other than for which they were designed will need to be carefully studied.”

A call to the smoking cessation quitline involves a 10- to 15-minute conversation in which smokers are asked about their past attempts to stop smoking, and counselors discuss methods that smokers can use to quit smoking.

“Someone identified as an unhealthy alcohol user should be referred to medical treatment for a comprehensive evaluation,” said Dr. Edwin Salsitz, director of the Methadone Medical Maintenance Program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “There could be a very valuable role for quitlines … to help alcoholics, after they have been properly assessed.”

Toll’s next study will assess whether adding five minutes of alcohol abuse counseling to quitline conversations can boost smoking cessation rates.

“Our hope is that we can reduce smoking by getting people to drink less,” Toll said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


1 in 5 White Women Have Smoked While Pregnant

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One in five white women have smoked cigarettes while pregnant, according to a new government study released Thursday.

The report, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showed that 21.8 percent of pregnant white women ages 15 to 44 had smoked a cigarette within 30 days of when the survey was conducted.

Those numbers contrasted with 14.2 percent of black women and 6.5 percent of Hispanic women of the same age.

“When pregnant women use alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances they are risking health problems for themselves and poor birth outcomes for their babies,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. “Pregnant women of different races and ethnicities may have diverse patterns of substance abuse. It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse.”

The rate of alcohol use during pregnancy among black and white women was about the same: 12.8 percent and 12.2 percent respectively. Only about 7.4 percent of Hispanic women reported drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Black pregnant women were more likely to use illegal drugs than white and Hispanic pregnant women: about 7.7 percent of blacks, 4.4 percent of whites and 3.1 percent of Hispanics reported using drugs at least once in 30 days prior to the survey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Government Reiterates Warning on Drinking, Smoking While Pregnant

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We've all heard the warnings: Don't smoke or drink alcohol while pregnant.  Yet, more than one in five pregnant white women smoke cigarettes, according to a new report from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the agency’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, says the warnings need to be repeated with each new generation.

"If it isn't reasserted, it tends to be forgotten.  And then, we have to deal with the medical consequences of low birth-weight babies or babies who are born with other problems associated with substances that their parents use," Clark says.

Among the report's findings, according to Clark:

-- Pregnant white women were more likely than pregnant black women to have smoked cigarettes in the past month.

-- Pregnant black and white women were more likely than pregnant Hispanic women to have used alcohol, in the past month.

-- Pregnant black women were more likely than pregnant white and Hispanic women to have used an illicit drug in the past month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Just One Drink a Day Could Up Breast Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(HEIDELBERG, Germany) -- Consuming as little as one drink a day or less may raise a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study published this week.

European researchers analyzed data from more than 100 studies that looked at the relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer and found that having up to one drink per day raised women's risk for the disease by four percent.  Three or more drinks per day increased risk by 40 to 50 percent.

"Women should not exceed one drink [per] day, and women at elevated risk for breast cancer should avoid alcohol or consume alcohol occasionally only," concluded the authors, led by Helmut K. Seitz of the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany.

Previous research has also found a link between light alcohol consumption and elevated breast cancer risk.  A study published in November found that as few as three to six drinks per week raised the risk by 15 percent.

Some experts said the findings support current recommendations for women to drink in moderation in order to minimize their risk of breast cancer as well as other health conditions.  They added that while it's important to avoid excessive drinking, women should also consider alcohol as one of numerous factors that can play a role in the development of cancer and other illnesses.

"The American Cancer Society guidelines say that for women who don't drink, there is no reason to start drinking, and not just to prevent breast cancer.  It can even prevent heart disease," said Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society.  "For women who do drink, they should limit their consumption to no more than one drink per day.  This study underscores that these guidelines are reasonable."

Dr. Stefan Gluck, a professor at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center, argued that although excessive drinking should absolutely be avoided, there is nothing wrong with having one drink a day.  The four percent increased risk among women who had one drink a day is a very small increase, he said, and other factors play a bigger role.

"There are many other things that are more important," he said.  "If you look at the American Association for Cancer Research report from last year, 30 percent of all cancer deaths were attributable to smoking and another 30 percent were attributable to obesity."

That same report found alcohol played a role in about three percent of cancer deaths.

Gapstur added that even though the study found light drinking elevated risk only moderately, breast cancer is a very common cancer, meaning four percent can add up to a lot of women.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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