Category Archives: Research

Drinking an extra glass of wine ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes’


Drinking will shorten your life, according to a study that suggests every glass of wine or pint of beer over the daily recommended limit will cut half an hour from the expected lifespan of a 40-year-old.

Those who think a glass of red wine every evening will help keep the heart healthy will be dismayed. The paper, published in the Lancet medical journal, says five standard 175ml glasses of wine or five pints a week is the upper safe limit – about 100g of alcohol, or 12.5 units in total. More than that raises the risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm (a ruptured artery in the chest), heart failure and death.

The risks for a 40-year-old of drinking over the recommended daily limit were comparable to smoking, said one leading scientist. “Above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb,” said David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge.

“The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years’ lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life. This works out at about an hour per day. So it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette.

“Of course, it’s up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile.”

There is still a small benefit to drinking, which has been much flagged in the past. It does reduce the chance of a non-fatal heart attack. But, said Dr Angela Wood, from the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study, “this must be balanced against the higher risk associated with other serious – and potentially fatal – cardiovascular diseases.”

The big international study supports the new UK recommended limits of a maximum of 14 units a week for both men and women, which were fiercely contested when introduced by England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, in 2016. Other countries with higher limits should reduce them, it suggests. They include Italy, Portugal and Spain as well as the US, where for men the recommended limit is almost double.

The study included data from nearly 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies carried out in 19 countries. About half the participants reported drinking more than 100g per week, and 8.4% drank more than 350g per week. Early deaths rose when more than 100g per week, which is five to six glasses of wine or pints of beer, was consumed.

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Binge drinking by adolescents predicts health-risk behaviors

teen-alcohol-abuseUnderage drinking can lead to risky or harmful behaviors that include unintentional and unprotected sex, physical and sexual assault, traffic and other injuries, suicide, homicide, and overdoses. Binge drinking among adults is defined as five drinks consumed during two hours by adult men and four drinks by adult women – typically producing a blood alcohol level (BAL) of ≥0.08%. Adolescents can reach a similar BAL after consuming fewer drinks. This paper explored whether and how different levels of adolescent drinking affected associations with health-risk behaviors.

Study authors analyzed past-month drinking and past-month or past-year health-risk behaviors from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, respondents to which included 4,646 female students and 4,722 male students in grades 8 through 12. The associations between different drinking levels and selected risk behaviors were adjusted for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and drinking frequency.

Bingeing at twice or more of the age/gender-specific binge thresholds by high-school students (including seniors, 10th graders, and 8th graders) was a strong predictor of numerous health-risk behaviors. Seven percent of respondents binged twice or more, nine percent binged less than twice the age/gender-specific thresholds, and 14 percent drank less than the binge thresholds. Significantly higher percentages of binge drinkers at twice or more of the threshold reported illegal drug and tobacco use, risky sexual and traffic behaviors, physical fights, suicide, less school-night sleep, and poorer school grades. The authors recommended that alcohol-misuse screening should ask adolescents about the maximum number of drinks that they consume per occasion and the frequency of such consumption. They also recommended that surveillance surveys investigate which interventions can reduce both consumption beyond binge thresholds and related health-risk behaviors.

Maternal alcohol use early in pregnancy may be risk factor for infant abdominal malformation

180111_op1ak_rci-baby-foot_sn635Alcohol use early in the pregnancy by the mother may be a risk factor for a condition in which an infant’s intestines develop outside the abdomen, according to a study published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine.

Loyola Medicine maternal-fetal medicine physician Jean Ricci Goodman, MD, medical director of obstetrical services, was first author of the study.

The national study was conducted with patients who were referred to a university-based tertiary level obstetric clinic for a routine mid-pregnancy ultrasound. The aim was to evaluate the impact of poor maternal nutrition, environmental exposure and vasoactive stimulants (drugs that can either raise or lower blood pressure) as potential risk factors for gastroschisis, a condition in which a baby’s intestines form outside the abdomen through a hole next to the belly button.

The study was conducted from September 2010 to June 2012, during which 38 cases of gastroschisis were diagnosed. Thirty cases were included in the analyses, with 76 control cases.

Among cases observed, there were no links found in either group between the use of illicit, prescription or over-the-counter drug use and gastroschisis. Diet and environmental exposures also did not seem to be risk factors.

However, the use of alcohol in mothers of gastroschisis cases one month prior and/or early in the pregnancy showed a significant increase in odds of the condition (36.7 percent in cases of gastroschisis versus 18.4 percent in the control group).

Babies born with gastroschisis are at risk for other anomalies in the gastrointestinal and other organ systems. Previous studies have indicated an increased rate in women from socially disadvantaged environments with nutritional deficits. While there has been an increase across all age groups and races, the largest increase (200 percent in the last decade) was among non-Hispanic African American women younger than 20 years.

“Cases of gastroschisis have been on the rise worldwide for 30 years,” Dr. Ricci Goodman said. “It’s important to understand why this trend is happening and develop measures to prevent it.”

Dr. Goodman is part of a multidisciplinary team at Loyola Medicine offering comprehensive, integrated maternal-fetal medicine care for women who have or may develop pregnancy complications.

NIH releases first dataset from unprecedented study of adolescent brain development


The National Institutes of Health Tuesday released to the scientific community an unparalleled dataset from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. To date, more than 7,500 youth and their families have been recruited for the study, well over half the participant goal.  Approximately 30 terabytes of data (about three times the size of the Library of Congress collection), obtained from the first 4,500 participants, will be available to scientists worldwide to conduct research on the many factors that influence brain, cognitive, social, and emotional development. The ABCD study (link is external) is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States.

This interim release provides high-quality baseline data on a large sample of 9-and-10-year-old children, including basic participant demographics, assessments of physical and mental health, substance use, culture and environment, neurocognition, tabulated structural and functional neuroimaging data, and minimally processed brain images, as well as biological data such as pubertal hormone analyses. The data will be made available through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Data Archive, which can be accessed by researchers who obtain a free NIMH Data Archive account. All personally identifiable information is removed from the data to ensure participant confidentiality and anonymity.

“By sharing this interim baseline dataset with researchers now, the ABCD study is enabling scientists to begin analyzing and publishing novel research on the developing adolescent brain,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “As expected, drug use is minimal among this young cohort, which is critical because it will allow us to compare brain images before and after substance use begins within individuals who start using, providing needed insight into how experimentation with drugs, alcohol and nicotine affect developing brains.”

“Sharing ABCD data and other related datasets with the research community, in an infrastructure that allows easy query, data access, and cloud computation, will help us understand many aspects of health and human development.” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “These datasets provide extraordinary opportunities for computational neuroscientists to address problems with direct public health relevance.”

This comprehensive dataset, which will be disaggregated by sex, racial/ethnic group, and socioeconomic status, will allow researchers to address numerous questions related to adolescent brain development to help inform future prevention and treatment efforts, public health strategies and policy decisions, including, but not limited to:

  • How do sports injuries impact developmental outcomes?
  • What is the relationship between screen time and brain and social development?
  • How does the occasional versus regular use of substances (e.g., alcohol, nicotine, marijuana) affect learning and the developing brain?
  • What are some of the factors that contribute to achievement gaps?
  • How do sleep, nutrition, and physical activity affect learning, brain development and other health outcomes across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups?
  • What brain pathways are associated with the onset and progression of mental health disorders and do these pathways differ by sex?
  • What is the relationship between substance use and mental illness?
  • How do genetic and environmental factors contribute to brain development?

“The collection and release of this baseline data is a crucial step in ongoing efforts to sharpen our understanding of the link between adolescent alcohol use and long-term harmful effects on brain development and function,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Recruitment of participants began in September 2016 through outreach to public, charter, and private schools, as well as twin registries in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia. The ABCD Study is designed to include a diverse population that reflects the demographics of the U.S., however these interim data may not fully capture that diversity as enrollment is not yet complete. So far, 7,637 youth have been enrolled, including 6,399 single participants and 1,238 twins/multiples, reaching a 66 percent recruitment milestone. The study aims to enroll a total of 11,500 children by the end of 2018. The next annual data release will include the full participant cohort.

Participants will be followed for 10 years, during which data are collected on a semi-annual and annual basis through interviews and behavioral testing. Neuroimaging data, including high resolution MRI, are collected every two years to measure changes in brain structure and function.

The ABCD Coordinating Center (link is external) and Data Analysis and Informatics Center are housed at the University of California, San Diego and recruitment is being conducted at 21 study sites (link is external) across the United States. For more information, please visit the ABCD website at (link is external).

The ABCD study is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Cancer Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the Division of School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with additional partnerships with the National Institute of Justice, the CDC Division of Violence Prevention, the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about the adolescent brain, go to:

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to sends e-mail). Online ordering is available at NIDA’s media guide can be found at, and its easy-to-read website can be found at You can follow NIDA on Twitter(link is external) and Facebook(link is external).

About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website

About the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorder. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at:

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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Want to predict a child’s future health? First measure their stress, says researcher


CBC News

We’ve all been told that stress is harmful to our health. But new evidence suggests that children who suffer stressful or traumatic events could suffer life-long consequences.

The events are known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which range from parental separation to sexual abuse. Researchers have discovered that they’re clear indictors of a child’s future health outcomes.

The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol, which is toxic to a child, said Jennifer Mervyn, a psychologist and ACE consultant.

“The impact on the brain is significant,” Mervyn said during an interview on CBC’s The Early Edition.

One study found that a male child with an ACE score of six is 4,600 per cent more likely to become an injection drug user versus a male child who has an ACE score of zero.

The findings were presented this week in Surrey’s health and technology district, which hosted a week-long event on advancements in brain research.

Listen to the full interview below. 


Brains ‘want to change’

Researchers have discovered that cortisol can have a structural impact on a child’s brain, Mervyn said.

Children who accumulate trauma tend to develop a larger amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional response centre.

The good news, Mervyn said, is that children’s brains are malleable, meaning that damage inflicted by stress and trauma can be offset as a child matures into puberty.

“[Brains] want to change, they want to heal,” she said. “The capacity to do so when you’re young is incredible.”

Treatments for kids can be found through various therapies and caring relationships with adults, Mervyn said.

Parents, too, can learn techniques that help them cope with their own stress and support and nurture their child.

“It really comes down to creating an environment where that child has been removed from that toxic stress,” Mervyn said.

Mervyn said the findings also point to the need for greater investment in youth mental health and substance abuse programs.

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In approximately 100 days, Canada will legalize, regulate and restrict access to non-medical cannabis use. This transformation in our drug policy will require an intense educational campaign to inform Canadians, particularly young people, about the effects of cannabis use.

After alcohol, cannabis is one of the most frequently used substances among Canadian youth, with 20.6% of 15–19-year olds reporting past year use in 2015. Although use amongst school-aged youth in Canada has declined steadily over the past decade, Canada is one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for cannabis use.

How do we determine the next steps to educate young people about the effects of cannabis use? A good starting point is to better understand the perceptions that youth have around cannabis, their issues and their concerns. For example, what do they believe are the effects associated with the drug? What influences a young person’s decision to use or abstain?

To answer these questions, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) conducted over twenty focus groups with young people aged 14-19 across Canada. Through this effort, we obtained baseline information about their perceptions on cannabis use and gained feedback on the information needed to effectively guide the conversation.

Our research revealed that young people are confused about the effects of cannabis, especially given all the vast and sometimes conflicting information that is available to them. Further, they are not having open and honest conversations with their families, peers, and trusted adults about cannabis use. They strongly believe that conversations about cannabis should avoid being “preachy” and exaggerated such as “you’ll die if you smoke cannabis.” Young people also reported that they are interested in being involved in peer-to-peer prevention efforts.

By understanding what and how youth think about cannabis use, CCSA was able to identify gaps in current education and awareness efforts and focus on how to have effective conversations about cannabis and inform youth decision-making. We have also been told by stakeholders from across the country – including doctors, nurses, coaches, teachers and many others – that this communication guide is urgently needed to equip them in engaging with young people regarding cannabis in an authentic, safe and judgment free conversation. With cannabis legalization approaching, it is increasingly important we talk to youth and find out what they need to live healthy and happy lives.

So, what’s the plan? This spring, CCSA will be releasing its Cannabis Communication Guide that was created for youth and designed by youth. It draws on CCSA’s made-in-Canada research and provides an evidence-informed approach to effectively communicate with younger Canadians about cannabis and cannabis use. Equipping parents, teachers, health professionals, coaches and young people themselves with a guide to have informed, unbiased and non-judgmental conversations is a vital way to prepare for the legalization of cannabis later this year.

Public awareness and education are critical to ensuring that young Canadians are well informed about the effects of cannabis use. We need to keep in mind that this discussion may not be entirely about preventing cannabis use but rather delaying cannabis use in younger Canadians. The Cannabis Communication Guide is just one of the many ways that CCSA generates the evidence for coordinated action on substance use.

Rita Notarandrea, , M.H.SC., C.H.E. is the CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

Contributed to the Sixth Estate – The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sixth Estate.

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Research: Addressing the public health concerns of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Impact of stigma and health literacy


Addressing the public health concerns of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Impact of stigma and health literacy

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