Archive | Consumption

U.S. Students Abroad Drink More

SEATTLE, Oct. 13 (UPI) — For some U.S. college students studying abroad is less about improving language skills and more like a prolonged spring break, researchers say.

Eric Pedersen, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says the consequences of drinking while studying abroad can be mild, such as missed classes, or more severe, such as fights, injuries and regrettable sexual experiences.

“We hear stories in the media and elsewhere about students going abroad, drinking too much and getting into trouble,” Pedersen says in a statement. “But no one has ever measured this risky drinking behavior and there are no published studies of prevention strategies before they go abroad.”

The researchers surveyed 177 participants who spent time abroad for three to five months.

The study, published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, reports students doubled how much they drank while they were abroad, increasing their consumption from about four alcoholic drinks per week at home to about eight drinks per week while they were abroad.

“We can’t really say if this is risky drinking or not,” Pedersen says. “This could be a drink a night — a glass of wine at dinner — over the course of a week.”

Or, they could be binge drinking, Pedersen says.

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Mercury Levels in Fish Puzzle Scientists

RALEIGH, N.C., Oct. 6 (UPI) — In a surprise finding, U.S. researchers say fish located near coal-fired power plants have lower levels of mercury than fish that live farther away.

North Carolina State University researchers say the result may be linked to high levels of another element, selenium, found near coal-fired facilities, which can present problems of its own, a release by the school said.

“We found that fish in lakes located at least 30 kilometers (18 miles) from a coal-fired power plant had mercury levels more than three times higher than fish of the same species in lakes that are within 10 km (6 miles) of a plant,” Dana Sackett, a doctoral student at N.C. State, said. “This information will inform health and wildlife officials who make determinations about fish consumption advisories and wildlife management decisions.”

The results were unexpected since coal-fired power plants are the leading source of mercury air emissions in the world and a significant amount of that mercury is expected to settle out of the air within 6 miles of a plant’s smokestacks.

The researchers theorize lower mercury levels near power plants are likely linked to selenium levels, as fish tested within 6 miles of a plant showed selenium levels three times higher than samples taken from fish located further away. The higher the selenium level, the lower the mercury level, the researchers found.

Selenium, also emitted by coal-fired plants, is known to have an antagonistic relationship to mercury, though the specific mechanisms at work at not completely understood.

High levels of selenium pose their own risks, scientists said.

“Selenium is an important dietary element,” said Dr. Derek Aday, associate professor of biology at N.C. State. “But at high levels, it can have serious consequences — including lethal effects and an array of health problems for fish and wildlife.”

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High Fish Oil Link to Colon Cancer in Mice

EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 6 (UPI) — In a study of mice, U.S. researchers found high doses of fish oil induced severe colitis and colon cancer — a finding researchers described as “surprising.”

Study leader Jenifer Fenton, a food science and human nutrition researcher at Michigan State University, said the researchers hypothesized feeding fish oil enriched with docosahexaenoic acid to mice prone to inflammatory-like bowel disease would decrease their cancer risk.

“We actually found the opposite,” Fenton said in a statement. “We found that mice developed deadly, late-stage colon cancer when given high doses of fish oil — more importantly, with the increased inflammation, it only took four weeks for the tumors to develop.”

The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, found an increase in the severity of the cancer and an aggressive progression of the cancer in not only the mice receiving the highest doses of DHA but those receiving lower doses as well.

However, Fenton cautioned people may not need to avoid fish oil — with any nutrient, there is a “bell curve” effect, with those on the left deficient in a nutrient and those on the right in excess.

“Currently, there is a call by academics and the food industry to establish dietary guidelines for omega-3 consumption,” Fenton said. “Most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and there is substantial evidence supporting the beneficial effects of the consumption.”

The findings support a growing body of literature implicating the harmful effects of high doses of fish oil in relation to certain diseases, Fenton added.

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Mexicans Biggest Users of Bottled Water

MEXICO CITY, Sept. 24 (UPI) — More bottled water is consumed per capita in Mexico than anywhere in the world, a U.S. consulting group says, highlighting the lack of access to safe tap water.

The Beverage Marketing Corp. says annual per person consumption of bottled water in Mexico is 61.8 gallons, compared to 30 gallons in the United States, Inter Press Service reports.

Although municipal water utilities in Mexico insist the tap water they provide is safe, widespread mistrust of its quality has fuelled the growing consumption of bottled water, the consulting group said.

Nathalie Seguin of the Freshwater Action Network of Mexico said “there are also doubts about the quality of bottled water.”

“Besides, the production is unsustainable, with transnational corporations selling the water, which they obtain and package at low cost, at much higher prices,” she told IPS.

A U.N. agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, says while areas in northern Mexico along the U.S. border had high levels of access to safe water, some parts of central and southern Mexico had very poor access.

Mexico’s National Water Commission says 9.7 percent of the Mexican population lacks access to piped water and 13.6 percent to sanitation.

In July, the U.N. General Assembly declared safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.

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Study Ranks World Marine Ecosystem Impacts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) — China leads the world in the annual tonnage of fish caught and consumed, a study of nations having the greatest impact on ocean ecosystems says.

The research, conducted by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with the National Geographic Society and The Pew Charitable Trusts, ranks the Top 20 nations having the greatest impact through catching or consuming marine wildlife, a society release said.

China’s top ranking is because of its enormous population, despite its very low per capita consumption, the study said.

Japan is high on the list, a result of its rate of consumption — often by importation — of fish rather than its catch.

The United States comes in third in both catch and consumption, due to its relatively large population and tendency to eat top predator fish such as Atlantic salmon, the study found.

Much of the world’s catch is being purchased by wealthy nations for their people; poorer countries simply can’t afford to bid for high-value species, the study says.

World demand for seafood has sent fishing fleets into every fishing ground in the world, the researchers say.

A report by the World Bank and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that even if the number of boats, hooks and nets now used were cut by half, the world would still end up catching too many fish to be sustainable.

The scientists favor treaties among nations setting seafood-consumption targets as well as ocean havens to safeguard resources.

“Barely one percent of the ocean is now protected, compared with 12 percent of the land,” National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala says, “and only a fraction of that is fully protected.”

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U.N. Calls for Biodiversity Rescue

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 22 (UPI) — The U.N. secretary-general says a rescue package like that introduced after the global financial crisis is needed to halt the worldwide loss of biodiversity.

At a high-level General Assembly event on biodiversity held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Ban Ki-moon said biodiversity loss was resulting in a heavy human cost, a U.N. release reported.

“We are bankrupting our natural economy,” Ban said.

The UN Environment Program says ecosystems — and the biodiversity that underpins them — generate services worth trillions of dollars, supporting livelihoods around the world.

Calling ecosystems “our natural capital,” Ban said that a loss of biodiversity could lead to the failure of crops, a drop in profits, a deepening of poverty and economic decline.

“Allowing [our natural infrastructure] to decline is like throwing money out of the window,” he said.

Although investment to reverse biodiversity decline has increased, the main causes of the decline — high consumption rates, habitat loss, pollution and climate change — are not being fully addressed, Ban said.

He called on world leaders to commit to reducing biodiversity loss.

“This will be your legacy — your gift for generations to come,” he said.

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Insomnia, Anxiety Drugs Up Mortality Risk

QUEBEC CITY, Sept. 10 (UPI) — People who take medications to treat insomnia and anxiety increases their mortality risk by 36 percent, researchers in Canada say.

Dr. Genevieve Belleville, a professor at the Universite Laval, says the findings are the result of an analysis of 12 years of data on more than 14,000 Canadians using the Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey.

The data include information on the social demographics, lifestyle and health of Canadians ages 18-102, surveyed every two years from 1994 to 2007.

Survey respondents who report having used medication to treat insomnia or anxiety at least once in the month had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent, but respondents who reported not having used such medications had a mortality rate of 10.5 percent.

After factoring for alcohol and tobacco consumption, physical health, physical activity level and the presence or absence of depressive symptoms among participants, Belleville established the consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety-relieving medications was associated with a 36 percent increase in the risk of death.

The findings are published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

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Most U.S. Adults Don't 'Strive for Five'

ATLANTA, Sept. 9 (UPI) — Most U.S. adults do not “Strive for Five” servings of fruit and vegetables a day as recommended, federal health officials say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released Thursday, finds despite efforts to improve healthy eating, there has been a 2 percent nationwide decrease during the last decade in meeting the fruit consumption objective and there has been no change in the vegetable consumption objective.

Healthy People 2010 fruit and vegetable objectives aimed for 75 percent of Americans to eat at least two servings of fruit daily and 50 percent to eat at least three servings of vegetables daily.

However, the CDC report says in 2009, 67.5 percent of U.S. adults ate less than two servings of fruit daily and 73.7 percent ate less than three servings of vegetables daily.

None of the 50 states met these objectives. Only one state increased both fruit and vegetable consumption, while 10 states decreased in produce consumption.

A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps in weight management and reduces the risk of several leading causes of death including heart disease, some cancers, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes, federal health officials say.

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Scientists: Biodiversity a World Concern

CAMBRIDGE, England, Sept. 9 (UPI) — Halting the decline of Earth’s biodiversity will require changes in behavior by human society, British researchers say.

In an article in the journal Science, conservationists and scientists argue that unless human societies recognize the link between their consumption choices and biodiversity loss, the diversity of life on Earth will continue to decline.

“If we are to make any kind of impact, it is critical that that we begin to view biodiversity as a global public good which provides such benefits as clean air and fresh water, and that this view is integrated not just into policies but also into society and individuals’ day-to-day decisions,” Mike Rands, director of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and lead author of the paper, said.

Biodiversity loss is usually the result of unintended human actions and therefore presents unique problems, researchers say.

“The impacts of a particular action are often distant in space and time. This makes effective regulation difficult, as no single body has jurisdiction over the world’s biodiversity,” the article says.

The authors urge managing biodiversity as a global public good as one part of a possible solution.

“The value of biodiversity must be made an integral element of social, economic and political decision-making, as is starting to happen with carbon and climate change. Government, businesses, and civil society all have crucial roles in this transition,” the authors say.

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More Sleep Leads to More Teen Weight Loss

BOSTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A U.S. doctor suggests teens wishing to lose weight consider getting enough sleep — 8 hours or more a night.

Senior author Dr. Susan Redline of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston links shorter sleep to chronically altered dietary patterns in teens.

“The relative increase in fat consumption among shorter sleepers by 2.2 percent per day chronically may contribute to cumulative increases in energy consumption that would be expected to increase risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease,” Redline says in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, finds teens sleeping less than 8 hours per weeknight eat higher proportions of fatty foods and snacks than those getting 8 hours sleep or more. For each 1-hour increase in sleep duration, the odds of consuming a high amount of calories from snacks went down 21 percent.

Redline and colleagues looked at eating habits of 240 teens ages 16-19 in the ongoing Cleveland Children’s Sleep and Health Study at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

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