18-11 Segment 1: Drunkorexia

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It’s a fact that college students drink, and often in large quantities. Students are also quite familiar with the phenomenon of the ‘Freshman 15,’ the inevitable weight gain that comes along with the frequent consumption of alcohol. Studies show that some students avoid food altogether when they plan to drink later on. Their motives are two-fold; to manage weight gain associated with a large number of calories consumed in a night of drinking and to achieve a greater buzz from drinking on an empty stomach.

Dr. Dipali Rinker, a research assistant professor at the University of Houston, explains drunkorexia, a colloquial term describing diet-related behaviors associated with alcohol use. More often than you’d think, students make the risky decision to eliminate food calories and replace them alcohol calories. The degree of drunkorexia varies. One student might simply eat less or skip one meal, while another may avoid food for an entire day, but both do so because they plan to go out and drink later on.

The dangers of drunkorexia are far-reaching. Dr. Petros Levounis, Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says the frequent practice can lead to vitamin and essential amino acid deficiencies, resulting in malnutrition. He also adds that students can be tricked into thinking there’s not much difference between alcohol and food calories, but this is not true. Students engaging in this behavior put their bodies at risk and can develop significant health problems over time. In fact, the consistent practice will likely result in the very weight gain that caused the behavior in the first place, concludes Dr. Levounis.

In addition, Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder of the non-profit Proactive Health Labs, explains it’s easy to get too drunk when drinking on an empty stomach. The high-risk behavior of drunkorexia often goes hand-in-hand with other high-risk behavior, such as blacking out and skipping class. One college, the University of Texas-Austin, has taken a more active approach. William Mupo, Health Promotion Coordinator, says Texas-Austin promotes the fun aspects of drinking in moderation, rather than simply condemning all drinking. The school also informs students they should eat healthy fats and proteins during a night of drinking, which helps maintain a lower blood alcohol level. Most importantly, they debunk the myth that all students drink to excess, which studies have shown is greatly exaggerated.

Guests:

  • Dr. Dipali Rinker, Research Assistant Professor, University of Houston
  • Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder Proactive Health Labs
  • Dr. Petros Levounis, Professor and Chairman., Psychiatry, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
  • William Mupo, Health Promotion Coordinator, University of Texas-Austin

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18-11 Segment 2: Big Data and Healthcare

 

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Big data is changing almost every aspect of modern-day life. Healthcare is one of the most recent adopters of big data collection. Paddy Padmanabhan, a healthcare IT expert and CEO of Damo Consulting, says over the past ten years health records have been moved to digital files, but most of the time the advantages of doing so are not fully utilized. Most of the time, health providers do not share information with each other, so when you go to a new provider they have to start from scratch.

Padmanabhan, also the author of The Big Unlock: Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value Based Healthcare Era, advocates for evidence-based healthcare, which entails providers are accountable for providing data which illustrates they are delivering acceptable care at an acceptable price. Consumers have more financial responsibility than ever for their healthcare cost. Previously, when insurers would pay providers directly and in far higher percentages, patients had almost no idea of the actual cost associated with their treatment. Providers had incentive to charge whatever they could get away with. Today, patients have more choices and providers are forced to offer more transparency. Big data is the next logical step if the goal is to improve accountability.

Eventually, so much healthcare data will be available that artificial intelligence will be needed to assist in diagnosis and recommend possible treatment options. There is such a vast range of potential applications for the data. For example, sequencing you genome can provide far more information that your medical history alone. There are, however, downsides to the collection of this data. There is potential for the data to fall into the wrong hands, primarily the possession of insurance companies who could use the data to predict complications extremely accurately. Eventually, insurers could refuse to cover certain individuals because they could predict the high cost of their treatment, so steps must be taken to protect valuable healthcare data.

Guests:

  • Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO, Damo Consulting and author, The Big Unlock: Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value Based Healthcare Era

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Medical Notes 18-11

 

Medical Notes this week…

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first at home test for the BRCA 1 and 2 genes that cause breast cancer but regulators warn that the test does not reveal a woman’s full risk.  The saliva test from 23andMe tests for only three of the more than one thousand variants of the breast cancer genes affecting only one tenth of one percent of most populations.  However those mutations account for more than ninety percent of genetic breast cancer in women with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry so for them the test may be a better idea.

Colicky babies are defined by crying more than three hours a day at least three days a week. It is a mystery why it occurs and the condition eventually goes away on its own.  But frazzled parents looking for relief will be glad to hear there may finally be a treatment: a probiotic called lactobacillus reuteri.  The study in the journal Pediatrics shows that the probiotic is twice as likely as a placebo to reduce crying in breast fed babies by fifty percent after three weeks.  Researchers haven’t studied the remedy yet on colicky babies who are formula fed.

And finally, about a third of kids under twelve have been allowed by their parents to occasionally taste a sip of alcohol. But a study in the journal Addictive Behaviors finds that those kids are more likely to drink frequently in later adolescence and drink more when they do. 

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

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