Archive for: March, 2011

Energy drinks in adolescents: More research please !

Mar 31 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Annie Ferland (a colleague and friend of mine who is a nutritionist and presently a postdoc at the University of Colorado School of Medicine) and I, have been interested in the impact of energy drinks on health-related issues since a couple of years now. After having read numerous papers and letters to the editor related to this highly covered topic, we decided to submit our own comment to further discuss a recently published letter dedicated to the energy drinks issue... which was ultimately rejected.

We then asked ourselves: How can we discuss relevant science issues when even letters to the editor are rejected!?

When I started Le Physiologiste, one of the (mid-term) goals with that blog was to discuss interesting issues in physiology. I'm even dreaming about the possibility of debating hot physiology topics online. I hope that in a near future, we’ll have enough interested followers to discuss these science issues…but that is another story. In the meantime, Annie and I are taking this opportunity, as guest bloggers here at Scientopia*, to post our rejected letter since we consider that it could be of interest for some Scientopia readers and could even promote a discussion about energy drinks!

So here it goes!

In a recent commentary, Arria and O’Brien (1) reacted to the announcement from the Food and Drug Administration, "that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic beverages" .

In this commentary, the authors have brilliantly outlined important issues regarding the safety associated with mixing alcohol with energy drinks. The majority of the existing literature represents studies with small sample sizes including young, healthy individuals in whom it is unlikely to observe short-term harmful side effects.

However, we consider that Arria and O’Brien did not put enough emphasis on one particular issue. Indeed, we should not ignore the impacts of energy drinks in adolescents, which are at the moment not well characterized.

It is well known that the United States now depicts the highest mean body mass index of all high-income countries (2). The association between the consumption of sweetened beverages with obesity is well described in the literature. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans report that 36% of added sugar intakes in the diet come from soda, sports and energy drinks. A 16-ounce energy drink may contain ~60 g of sugar, the equivalent of 11 tablespoons, which represent twice the recommended limit of daily sugar intake in a 2,000 calories diet. Of concern, the consumption of energy drinks is rapidly growing in young middle school students, and the wide availability of these drinks in grocery stores makes these beverages readily accessible for purchase. Even if the amount of caffeine in each beverage is about the same as a cup of coffee, the consumption of a 16-ounce energy drink by these young students might exceed their maximal daily intake in caffeine. Different format of energy drinks are available ranging from 8 to 24 ounces.

Research also shows that the regular consumption of energy drinks increases heart rate by 7%, systolic blood pressure by 10% and diastolic blood pressure by 8% (3). Such an increase in blood pressure and heart rate may not necessarily be associated with a worsened cardiovascular risk profile in young healthy individuals. However, the regular consumption of energy drinks may have a negative impact in obese or sensitive individuals with health-related problems. Energy drinks were also shown to shorten total sleep time by 29 min and reduce sleep efficiency, which may lead to a vicious circle of consumption (4).

Most agree that the regulation of energy drinks is currently inadequate. There is a need for public advertisement about the health-related impact of these beverages, which will help counteract the strong marketing of energy drinks. Considering the growing number of reports describing serious adverse effects following inappropriate energy drink consumption (5-6), there is an urgent need for well-designed studies in order to potentially protect consumers, specially the most vulnerable ones, adolescents.

What is your opinion on that matter ?

Annie and Patrice

*That comment has already been posted at Le Physiologiste some weeks ago.


(1) Arria AM, O'Brien MC. The "high" risk of energy drinks. JAMA 2011; 305(6):600-1.

(2) Finucane MM, Stevens GA, Cowan MJ, et al. National, regional, and global trends in body-mass index since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 960 country-years and 9.1 million participants. Lancet. Feb 3 2011.

(3) Steinke L, Lanfear DE, Dhanapal V, Kalus JS. Effect of "energy drink" consumption on hemodynamic and electrocardiographic parameters in healthy young adults. Ann Pharmacother. Apr 2009;43(4):596-602.

(4) Jay SM, Petrilli RM, Ferguson SA, Dawson D, Lamond N. The suitability of a caffeinated energy drink for night-shift workers. Physiol Behav. May 30 2006;87(5):925-931.

(5) Terlizzi R, Rocchi C, Serra M, Solieri L, Cortelli P. Reversible postural tachycardia syndrome due to inadvertent overuse of Red Bull. Clin Auton Res. Aug 2008;18(4):221-223

(6) Berger AJ, Alford K. Cardiac arrest in a young man following excess consumption of caffeinated "energy  drinks". Med J Aust. Jan 5 2009;190(1):41-43.

5 responses so far

What Am I? 13

Mar 30 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

'What Am I?' is a Tuesday feature on my blog.  Yes I know its Wednesday today - big grant deadline looming so a little behind at the moment!  Normal service should resume by lunchtime Thursday.  Its an excuse for me to point out that everything is made of chemicals and also provokes some interesting reactions from those who find molecules scary.

Below I’ve listed the key chemicals found in a commonly available  product.  I’ve drawn the chemical structures of principal components where simple and appropriate; given the E number or CAS number (however tempting Sigma-Aldrich catalogue numbers would be) if no simple chemical structure exists for an additive; and given the chemical formulae or name if neither of the above make sense.  See if you can guess what this is!  If no one gets it within 24 hours, I will post a clue.

01/04/11 - I've put the answer below the fold!

E473, E464, E104, E110

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

Who am I?

Mar 29 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Hello everybody! I am Émilie Pérusse-Lachance, a kinesiologist with a master's degree in physical activity and healthy lifestyle promotion. At the moment, I am a PhD student in physiology and obesity and a contributor at Le Physiologiste.

Angelo Tremblay has been my master’s degree co-supervisor, and now is my PhD supervisor. A “research lover”, he can almost read and write a paper while he's doing his running intervals (can't wait to be like him!). I consider him my "Grand Manitou" and my personal growth teacher! Patrice Brassard is my co-supervisor... what a nice guy! Why? First, he is 4 years older than me so not long time ago, he was in my shoes! Second, his passion for research is contagious and now, I'm infected! What a complementary team of supervisors! As you can see, I'm very well surrounded!

What more can I say about me? I can assure you that at first, I didn’t want (at all!) to do grad studies. Indeed, I was considering that my undergrad studies in kinesiology were well enough! But.... after having started to work as a kinesiologist, I soon realized that I wanted to learn more about physical activity and its related topics. In fact, a little bit naïve, I wanted to save the world, nothing less! Ok, I know, I cannot literally do it, but you may consider that doing a PhD in physiology and obesity is my own way to save the world "a little"! Anyway, I feel great about it!

This year is my last one as a PhD student. It’s like if I didn’t see the first 2 years passed, although it has been a challenging moment in my life... “full of emotions” my friends and colleagues would say (you will figure it out in my next post !) ! I'm starting to get a little bit nervous about my future as a researcher (or is it about my thesis defense??) but I can't wait to write the last sentence of that thesis... However, for now, numerous volunteers are scheduled for experiments before I can start dreaming about the first sentence of the thesis!


6 responses so far

Hello and Introductions

Mar 28 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm Katherine Haxton and I'm a lecturer in Chemistry at Keele University near Stoke-on-Trent in the UK.  The England part of the UK, that is.  We're about 1.5 hours from London, near Manchester and Birmingham (big English cities).  I usually have to explain where Keele is because most people think its a port on the Baltic sea (Kiel).  Lecturer in Chemistry is a suitably vague term for a job that includes teaching physical and inorganic chemistry and a side order of Forensic Science.  I get away with blogging because part of my job includes outreach work usually with local schools but I take a broader view of talking about science, being an academic in the UK and stuff like that.  I reckon my job is about 50 % teaching, 15 % other stuff and 35 % research.  I think the balance is a little off there but more on that later perhaps.


The view from my office window this morning - its a bit dreich (pronounced dreech with the soft ch as in loch) out there.

Research-wise, I stick metals on polymers and see what happens.  No, seriously, that's pretty much it.  I could use all kinds of wonderfully complicated words to describe the work but there's no need to.  At the moment we're studying the removal of nasty metals from water that might be used as drinking water, metal-polymer systems that can be used to catalyse reactions and dabble a little in polymers that can be used to release metal-based drugs such as cisplatin.  The three applications are nicely connected through the techniques used to create and study them.

I was very surprised, like Patrice, to get an email inviting me to guest blog here at Scientopia.  I must confess that I don't spend as much time reading and particularly commenting on blogs as I used to - if I find time to write a few posts in a week that's about it.  My challenge for the next two weeks is to do better.  My little blog, Endless Possibilities v3.0, started a few years ago, shortly after I was appointed as  a lecturer.  V3.0 because its the third place where it has been hosted. It started out on my research website, moved to NatureNetwork, then a couple of years ago (quite when, I forget), I shifted it back to its own server.   I'm looking forward to the next fortnight here at Scientopia.

6 responses so far

Bonjour à vous chers lecteurs !

Mar 27 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Several weeks ago, I was surprised to receive that invitation to become, for a period of 2 weeks, a Scientopia Guest Blogger ! Why? Well, because I never thought that our actual blog, Le Physiologiste, would interest someone! This invitation is maybe a proof that some people are following us... So, thank you very much for that invitation and I hope that you will enjoy what we’ll have to offer during these 2 weeks!

We, because several contributors are now sharing their thoughts at Le Physiologiste , will blog about our experiences as graduate students, researcher and junior faculty member. Indeed, although I think it is important to discuss science, I also consider that sharing our research experiences may be of interest and useful for some readers who can recognize themselves in the situations we are talking about. Still, I hope that we’ll have time to share some thoughts on recent literature related to physiology.

Let me introduce myself now ! I am Patrice Brassard, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at Université Laval, Quebec city, Canada. During my graduate studies, my major interest was related to cardiorespiratory physiology during exercise in clinical populations, i.e. patients with congenital heart diseases during my master’s degree and patients with type 2 diabetes during my PhD studies. Then, I had the opportunity to do a postdoc in Copenhagen to study cerebrovascular physiology in healthy subjects, patients with diabetes and patients with heart failure. I am presently interested in cardiac and cerebrovascular physiology in patients with type 2 diabetes at rest and during exercise. We are also studying the cardiovascular impacts of mental work.

I've been attracted to science blogs as a graduate student and I'm now a huge fan of Scientopia. I decided to start my own blog somewhere in 2009 and at that moment, I was the unique contributor. I began to blog using a pseudonym. Indeed, I initially started to blog under Le Physiologiste because I didn’t know what direction I wanted to give to my blog. Should I only blog about my life as a new assistant professor? Should I exclusively blog about research in physiology? Should I blog in French, in English, or in both languages? I decided it was time for me to blog under my real identity.

Then, I asked my graduate students to participate to the blog in order to increase the number of posts and also to diversify the content of our blog. I found that it would be a great opportunity for them to share their experiences and discuss science in a different context than lab meetings or journal clubs.

So here we are ! In our next post, it will be Émilie’s turn to introduce herself !

P.S. We apologize in advance for language mistakes. Although we like to share our thoughts in English, French is our native tongue 🙂

Bienvenue à tous !


11 responses so far

Scientist Danielle Lee Interviews Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro

Mar 25 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Outdoor Afro and Urban Science Adventures have been social media friends from the beginning, and their respective creators have enjoyed an online and real life relationship of mutual support. Here is an interview between Danielle Lee, who is a scientist and founder of Urban Science Adventures, and Rue Mapp creator of Outdoor Afro:

Danielle: You’re not a scientist or science educator, but your blog Outdoor Afro is amazingly popular among science bloggers, especially those of us who blog about/study outdoor themes like geography, geology, ecology, and conservation. Are you surprised by this popularity among science bloggers?

Earth Day 2010

Rue: Yes! The interest from the science community initially came as a pleasant surprise. But I think there is a synergy of thought that understands how a relationship with nature is a gateway to intellectual inquiry, among many other benefits. To that end, it is particularly important that all communities, regardless of their resources and barriers, have support to meaningfully engage with the outdoors that can increase their interest and participation in science, conservation, and other environmental related fields.

Has this attention by science bloggers tempted you to blog more about science-related experiences at Outdoor Afro?

Science is everything. While most Outdoor Afro posts do not spell out a specific academic theme, there is a dotted, and sometimes more direct line between its blogs and the sciences. Outdoor Afro tries to position itself as a “soft-sell”, so it’s not likely to underscore scientific themes always, but it’s terrific when community members discover the linkages on their own. Finally, I think it’s important that Outdoor Afro mirror the outdoors in that it remains interdisciplinary and accessible for community members to discover their own passion or interest through shared experiences.

What do you see as the connection between outdoor recreation and outdoor science disciplines?

I consider recreation in natural settings as a form of “dating” the outdoors. I believe that repeated recreational experiences leads to a deeper relationship, passion, and eventual love for natural settings that are necessary to fuel curiosity for the outdoor science disciplines. For instance in my case, had I not spent hundreds of days recreating in natural spaces while growing up, I would have never had the drive and passion in my career to help reconnect communities to the great outdoors.

A visit to the local botanic garden

What do you see as the connection between Outdoor Afro and diversity initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)? I know I would love the opportunity to do a large-scale project together, one that springboards off of our common interests in fun and exploration outdoors with under-served audiences.  Have you entertained thoughts in your head or invitations by others to do some sort of Outdoor Afro + Outdoor Science experience?

Outdoor Afro embeds fun and cultural relevancy into its message, and the science community might consider ways to do the same. It’s important to remember that communities must access and relate to science on a practical level, and on their own terms for its value to be recognized. There are some organizations and program leaders who are doing a terrific job at this kind of framing. Akiima Price of the New York Restoration Project in New York City comes to mind, as a shining example of how to relate nature and science to neighborhood.  I certainly welcome opportunities to engage the Outdoor Afro and science communities in deeper discussions and partnerships, and I am always poised for the right opportunity to partner in the most meaningful way. In fact recently, I have had some great conversations with a couple of Natural History museums that are striving to bring the museum experience and messaging to communities who typically do not visit them -- I expect some exciting developments to come!

Do you encourage your children or the children you interact with in real life to consider further science study as a result of outdoor recreational experiences?

Rue's Kids

Absolutely! I am a mother of three children, ages 14, 9, and 7, and we have always engaged with natural spaces for fun, but also to restore them. When my children and I go to the local beach to do a clean-up, or volunteer to help bring back the riparian habitat behind our home, we make note of the human impact on natural spaces, while still having fun identifying birds and other wildlife. The point is that science, while not explicitly labeled as such in conversation, is interwoven naturally into our quality time together in a way that I hope will inspire their future interest in science, and in the same spirit I hope can also inspire Outdoor Afros!

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media to create interest communities, events, and to partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

Follow Danielle Lee @DNLee5 or visit Urban Science Adventures

4 responses so far

Outside In

Mar 24 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The Eames House, Southern California

The Eames House, Southern California

I spent the brief plane ride to Los Angeles last week pouring over a copy of Dwell, a forward looking magazine of modern home design. And when I arrived at my friend’s Hollywood bungalow, she pointed out that the house behind hers was the Freeman House, a concrete block Frank Lloyd Wright creation. This triggered a Mid-Century Modern design theme for the weekend and inspired some thoughts about the ways a home can capture a love of the outdoors.

What resonates with me about Wright is that he understood the interconnectedness of our lives with the spaces we occupy. He believed that domestic spaces should integrate seamlessly with the natural environment, rather than shriek away or dominate it. So his designs fly in the face of cloistered ideas of ownership and property lines, and blur the contractual boundary between “inside” and “outside” with floor to ceiling windows often appearing in his designs in lieu of walls.

Designers such as Ray and Charles Eames and developer Joseph Eichler tailored Wright’s design fundamentals for everyday people, and many others followed in his philosophy to inspire a new generation of design.

For me, a home that combines the charm of a child’s tree-house with grown-up necessity and sustainability like an Eichler (pictured below) equals bliss...

In what ways does your home reflect your passion for the outdoors?

Inside an Eichler House

Inside an Eichler House

Curbside View of an Eichler

Curbside View of an Eichler

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media to create interest communities, events, and to partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

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Connecting Youth and Their Families to Nature

Mar 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I think a lot about the journey that led me to form a deep connection with the outdoors, and now see clearly how fortunate I was that my family had a strong connection to land and nature, and how my parents trusted institutions like the Girl Scouts, and our local recreation center to help me connect deeply with my environment. Had I not received this kind of support and encouragement from  home throughout my childhood, my interactions with nature might have been less relevant to my daily life,  and I would not have the lasting positive effects of nature I enjoy today.

Lately I have been having some lively discussions with colleagues about the trend to focus on youth in the outdoors. Most agree that connecting youth to nature is essential to creating a new generation of environmental champions, but too often programs do not consider the involvement of parents and caregivers of youth, who are essential to help sustain long term engagement with the outdoors, and who may have the need to connect meaningfully with the environment for their own enrichment.

Today, my own school-age children love nature and especially enjoy camping, but their relationship with nature evolved within the security of sharing outdoor experiences with me over time. At camp, under a canopy of a dark night and serenaded by the sounds of nature, I am near my children; sharing stories, soothing fears. With me in nature, my children always know they are safe and understood. And because of my own developed connection to the outdoors, I have the motivation and resources to lead them outside again and again.

Denene Millner and Family

Connecting youth with their families to nature can help address fears and perceptions and cultural relevancy, which are widely recognized in the field as important barriers to lower before a relationship to the outdoors can be built. From the perspective of some communities, sending children away alone for overnight outdoor experiences might be a no-go, but going together as a family might be a more inviting concept.

Family Camp has always been an important vehicle to help some communities feel more comfortable with the idea of sending their kids away by participating first together as a family. For instance, Y.E.S. Families is a program that enriches Richmond, California youth and their parents through camp. They believe that youth, and the adults around them need and deserve opportunities to develop deep connections and supportive relationships with one another; and experiences in nature, contribute to building developmental assets that enrich their relationships when families return home. They understand that nature provides families a space for reconnection and healing not typically found within hectic schedules in the urban environment.

Click to watch Y.E.S Family stories

Yes, it is important to get children and youth outside. But in order to move the needle toward increased and sustainable participation in the outdoors, especially among traditionally underrepresented communities, parents and caregivers must be central to the mix, and encouraged to create and define their own connections to nature that moves beyond permission slips to full participation.

Besides camp, what are some other ways might families participate in outdoor experiences together?

8 responses so far

Sidewalk Gardens

Mar 15 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

For urban dwellers who would love to garden, but feel as though they don't have enough, time, skills, or space, a re-popularized and fun solution is the sidewalk garden. These gardens not only invite beauty into the local surroundings, but also create an urban sanctuary for environmental allies such as birds, bees, and butterflies. For pedestrians and passersby, a sidewalk garden also promotes a sense of community pride, and a natural respite from the harsh angles of the urban setting.

Found in urban sidewalks everywhere are overlooked squares of soil tangled with weeds, or patches of dirt that might easily be converted into a supportive micro-landscape. For San Francisco architect Jane Martin, sidewalk gardens were a smart response to the periodic flooding happening in her neighborhood because they lowered the amount of impermeable surface area frequently challenged by sewer drain overflow and heavy rain run-off. So Martin recently led the charge in her city to convert concrete driveways into flower beds.

But sidewalk gardens are not entirely new. Almost forgotten are the “yard gardens” that are a part of a long tradition for early 20th Century African-American families and communities. Zora Neale Hurston’s book, The Gilded Six-Bits describes the fictional character Missie May’s front yard as, “a sidewalk edged on either side by quart bottles driven neck down into the ground on a slant. A mess of homey flowers planted without a plan but blooming cheerily from their helter-skelter places." In this world, a sidewalk garden was a part of the melodic continuum of the front garden and a forum for individual expression.

Dianne Glave, co-editor of To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History, underscores how gardens were a public affair. She wrote, “African-Americans also displayed flowers for everyone’s viewing and pleasure, beckoning neighbors to take a closer look or visitors to chat in the yard’s fragrance and color.” Therefore yards were intentionally public as a critical way to support community.

Read more about how one African-American community transformed their community one garden at a time.

So where to begin? Here is some inspiration:














1634 Jerrold Avenue (near 3rd Street, Bayview District, San Francisco, CA)

Even if you do not have a nearby plot of dirt, or are unable to bust up concrete, consider container gardening as an option:

What to plant? Natives for your area are a good bet for low maintenance and environmental friendliness. And if available in your area, vertical plant options like Jasmine, Bougainvillea, or Trumpet Vine are showy and smell terrific for economy spaces. Also don’t disregard edibles like strawberries, or herbs like lavender or rosemary as generous neighborhood treats!

Once your sidewalk begins to bloom, you’ll notice how your community and the many species that live there benefit -- including the homo sapiens!

What will you grow in your sidewalk garden?

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media to create interest communities, events, and to partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

8 responses so far

Outdoor Afro Hello!

Mar 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

When people ask me how Outdoor Afro began, I gauge how I’ll answer by how much time the listener has to hear about it! The site began a mere two years ago, but the material for its inspiration began decades before.

During my childhood, I had the fruitful experience of splitting time between urban Oakland, California and my families’ working ranch in the Northern woodlands, where I cultivated a passion for unstructured natural spaces, farming, and I learned how to hunt and fish.

Also as a youth, I participated in the Girl Scouts; and as a young adult, Outward Bound and my college roommates helped to broaden my outdoor experiences to include back country activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, and road bicycling.  I was also fortunate to live in a region all of my life with accessible wild spaces no more than 20 minutes away in any direction.

Check out this recent podcast where I share more about my background.

Rock Climbing

But over time, I struggled with the consistently low numbers of African Americans participating in activities with me, so I turned to early 90's forums like internet mailing lists and newsgroups to connect with people of color who loved the outdoors. In spite of my diligent networking, many times I felt like I was the only one in my local community who deeply engaged with the outdoors, but I discovered that many others felt the same way, and when you put together all the “only ones” we are numerous!

Outdoor Afro emerged naturally from these experiences.

The site has now grown into a vibrant and fun online community that reconnects African Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media platforms to create interest communities, promote events, and partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

I am looking forward to helping engage the Scientopia community with the conversation of diverse participation in the outdoors. To this end, Outdoor Afro maintains an upbeat conversation on Facebook and in its online community, so please join the fray -- no afro required! User stories and pictures about outdoor engagement are central and important to share as one way to dispel the myth that African Americans do not care for the outdoors.

Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro

For the next two weeks, expect posts from me on topics such as camping, children and nature, urban connections to the outdoors, and other ideas and inspiration to get outside. I am so excited about getting to know you, and all your upcoming outdoor adventures - thank you for having me!

14 responses so far

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