Tag Archives: college health blog

The Ugly Truth about Energy Drinks

Before you reach for another energy drink, you should know the facts.

From supermarkets to drug stores, you’ll spot students buying energy drinks to not only quench their thirst but help them survive all-nighters in the library.

Since Red Bull was introduced in 1997, energy drinks have seen a major growth, outpacing nearly every other offering in the beverage market. But do we really know what we are buying? Are these drinks safe?

What is really in energy drinks?

There are so many different kinds of energy drinks now-a-days. From Red Bull to Five Hour to Monster, students have many options when deciding their liquid source for energy. So of course recipes vary, but the common element in energy drinks is caffeine.

A standard cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, a cup of tea 50 mg and a can of coke cola 35-55 mg. How much caffeine does energy drinks have? Well, definitely more. Try anywhere from 50 to 500 mg of caffeine in a single serving.  And the addition of guarana (a South American plant extract that contains additional caffeine) ups the caffeine dose even more. Although the FDA regulates the amount of caffeine in soft drinks (maximum of 71 mg per 12-oz serving), there is no such limit for energy drinks.

Caffeine is a stimulant. Scientific studies in adults show that caffeine can increase alertness, improve concentration and enhance mood. Modest caffeine intake (less than 400 mg per day) is safe for most adults. But too much caffeine can cause problems, including restlessness, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Massive caffeine overdoses can cause reduced blood flow to the heart and abnormal heart rhythms.

Many energy drinks also contain sugar. Sugar is “real energy.” Your body can use the sugar as fuel to do work. But don’t forget that extra sugar means excess calories. A steady consumption of sugar-filled energy drinks will lead to weight gain.

Other ingredients, including the amino acid taurine, ginseng and assorted vitamins, probably have little to no impact on a person’s perceived energy level. Although manufacturers tout the importance of these additives, their purported benefits are unproven. One note of caution-ginseng can interact with a variety of prescription medicines.

Are energy drinks safe for you?

Energy drinks have not been proven safe. In fact, because they are classified as supplements, they are not even regulated by the FDA. This means that their ingredients are not tightly controlled and their health effects are largely unstudied.

We do think that an adult who consumes an occasional energy drink (one a day) is unlikely to suffer harm. But too much can lead to caffeine overdose and health problems, and mixing energy drinks and alcohol is such a bad idea – Don’t do it for the sake of your health!

Before you reach for that magic bottle that promises enhanced alertness, concentration and physical performance, you need to remember the facts. Instead get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly and eat well… these are the real energy magic-makers.

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Why You Should Eat Like a Turtle

Are you a fast or slow eater? One thing that these two people have in common is being made fun of. Slow eaters get in trouble for taking too long and making their friends wait while fast eaters are consistently being asked questions like, “did you even chew your food?” Studies have proven that one pace is actually better than the other, in terms of your health.

So which is better for you… to eat quickly or slowly?

The answer – it’s better to be a slow eater. Why?

Problems of eating too fast

Eating too much

Most Americans eat too fast, and as a result, they take in too many calories before they realize how much they ate. According to WebMD, it takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. Leisurely eating allows ample time to trigger the signal from your brain that you are full. And feeling full translates into eating less.

Recent research presented at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity showed that overweight men and women took in fewer calories when they slowed their normal eating pace.

Higher risk of diabetes

Healthy experts have long warned that fast eating can lead to weight gain, but what you might not realize is that wolfing down your food can also lead to another health consequence: a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Yeeks! Lithuanian researcher found that speedy eaters were two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those who eat at a more snail-like pace.

Bloating

According to Live Strong, bloating can occur when you add excess air to your stomach, causing your stomach to feel larger or uncomfortable than it usually does. One of the problems with eating quickly is that it introduces excess air into your digestive tract. Also, you have a tendency not to chew food as thoroughly when you eat quickly. This can cause larger pieces of food to become trapped in your stomach, which might give you the sensation that food is sitting uncomfortably.

Benefits of eating slowly

Eating slowly not only helps you eat less calories, it enhances the pleasure of the dining experience. Here are the benefits of eating slowly:

Eat less calories

No bloating

Savor your food

Enjoy the dining experience

Feel full faster

Solution

To master the art of slow eating, put on some music, light a few candles, turn off the TV and any other distractions, and concentrate on your meal. Perhaps the perfect place to start your turtle-like eating pace is at dessert. Take a bite, eat it slowly, savor it, and do nothing but enjoy the flavor, texture, and experience of the delicious dessert. Try also putting your fork down between bites, this can help to extend the amount of time you eat.

The researchers aren’t sure exactly why this is the case, but it’s worth remembering next time you’re sitting down to a meal. Eat a little slower and savor your food longer.

Are you a fast eater or a slower eater?

Use Coupons For Prescription Medications

Greater savings is available using coupons for brand name prescription medications.

Pharmaceutical companies offer coupons for discounts or rebates for two reasons:

1. To encourage you to try their medication

2. To keep you on their medication

Coupons are available through your doctor, your pharmacist or online. Try a Google search for “drug name” and “coupon.” You may even find offers in your local newspaper or favorite magazine.

Some pharmaceutical companies offer coupons for a free trial of medication, from a three-day introductory offer to an entire month’s prescription free. Others offer a discount or rebate on your out-of-pocket expense, including co-pay amounts, as high as $50 per month. Some are one-time offers, but many are renewable for a few months, or a year, or even for as long as you require the medication. The reusable for a few months or a year, or even for as long as you require the medication. The reusable coupons usually come in the form of a plastic card that you present to the pharmacy each time you need a refill. If the discount is in the form of a rebate, make sure you keep your receipts.

Some of these programs are not available to government-sponsored (Medicare and Medicaid) prescription plan beneficiaries.

A second type of coupon is offered through retail pharmacies and commonly involves new or transfer prescription. The coupon may be worth more than the price of the drug you are purchasing! Some stores will honor another retailer’s coupon as well. Potentially you could actually make a profit — transfer a $5 prescription and receive $20 in store merchandise.

Retail pharmacy coupons may appear in local publications, or show up in your personal mail. In general, they apply to either generic or brand name medications. Discounts may be offered on current or future prescriptions, other store merchandise, or even gasoline purchases. Some retailers offer gift cards rather than discounts. Large retailers offer gift cards rather than discounts. Large retailers offer coupons and discounts online as well. Go to your local pharmacy’s website for additional information.

If you’re lucky, you may able to combine a retail pharmacy coupon with that of a pharmaceutical company.

Happy coupon hunting!

Are you spending too much on prescription drugs?

If you have prescription coverage, odds are you have a formulary, which can save you a lot of money on prescription drugs.

What is a formulary?

A drug formulary is a list of prescription drugs (both generic and brand name) that are preferred by your health insurance plan. Your plan may only pay for medications that are on their “preferred” list, unless your healthcare provider talks with your health plan and gets prior approval.

Most insurance companies maintain formularies, or a list of drugs that they pay for as a plan benefit, usually using a tiered system. Less expensive drugs have the lowest co-pay (Tier 1), the most expensive drugs have the highest co-pay (Tier 3), and the remainder lie in between (Tier 2). This tier designation does not go strictly on retail price — insurance companies negotiate for discounts that sometimes may make a costlier drug preferred over a less costly one.

Formularies are organized along therapeutic classes. For example, they all contain several blood pressure pills, antibiotics and diabetic medications, though often only one mediation from each therapeutic sub-class.

How do I save money on prescription drugs with my formulary?

If your doctor chooses from your list of preferred drugs or formulary, it will save you money. How does your doctor know what to choose? In short, your doctor doesn’t… not unless they have access to your formulary or list of drugs covered by your insurance plan. Get two copies — bring one with you to every doctor visit. Have your doctor keep the other in your chart for reference.

Tier 1 drugs may not necessarily be your first choice. You may be intolerant of a certain drug, or perhaps unresponsive to it. You may be stable on a particular name brand prescription for years already and are therefore hesitant to make a change. Some medications require blood level monitoring, and levels may be more consistent with brand name medications. Switching to a generic may not save you money if you need to have your blood level checked more often.

Additional savings are available in the form of coupons or rebates from pharmaceutical companies, which may save you $20 to $50 off your co-pay, thereby lowering your out-of-pocket cost for a higher tiered drug to the same as that of a lower tiered medication.

So to sum it up… know your formulary and partner with your doctor to save money!