Alcohol and sport: “drinking culture” affects youth health

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Building the beer tower at Lord's during England vs Sri Lanka.
Photo: Wendie Norris

We went to Lord’s cricket ground to see England play Sri Lanka recently [14/6/14]. In our Lower Compton stand, the cricket was incidental to the main sport of drinking & talking. When did cricket at Lord’s get like this? Apparently at least since 2011 according to The Guardian’s Barney Ronay:  Sozzled – how English cricket got lost in drink

Our enjoyment was marred by the constant hubbub and noise: you could not hear bat on ball.

A group of young men in front of us, with one prime instigator (who somehow never got caught), in great good humour started a “feed the snake”… plastic beer cups were collected into one stack or beer tower and passed through the stand to be added to, while particpants shouted “feed the snake”. Great cheers would start up from the crowded stand – nothing to do with what was happening on the pitch – but because of these precarious beer towers.  For me, it was amusing only the once: repetitions were distracting and required constant security intervention.

What hit me from the beer towers was how many beers our stand had clearly been through between 11am and 2pm. Aided no doubt by the cardboard drinks holders enabling people to carry at least four pints in one hand. And not just beer… 4 lads behind us went through 3 bottles of champagne in the afternoon’s play.

Who was in the stand? All ages, but our stand was particularly full of young people (mostly lads) in their mid-twenties, good humouredly drinking themselves silly but not aggressive. Just silly enough to lose a sense of proportion and consideration for others in the stand.

Most of the drink on the day was bought at the venue, and there was plenty of advertising sponsorship linked to alcohol. The UK government’s minimum pricing for different drinks (April 6, 2014) to stop extreme discounting of alcohol in England and Wales, wouldn’t have helped at Lords.

Back at work I decided to investigate the health facts behind the “drinking culture” amongst young people and in particular young sports fans.

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Superfood Beetroot: just in time, for me…

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Beetroot: amortize/flickr

THANK you dear Libby Purvis for having Italian chef Antonio Carlucci on to talk about beetroot recipes in your BBC Radio4 show, Midweek, (Wednesday 9 November)!

The recipes feature in his BBC TV Great British Food Revival Series 2, programme-7: Beetroot & Currants.  On Midweek, he mentioned an Exeter University study (UK) where cyclists are being fed the stuff (beetroot juice, packed with betalains and nitrates) to improve performance.

Well here in this blog, for your delectation, is the link to the actual research!  We have it on our public health database Global Health, and you can read the detailed summary with the URL I have provided. There you will see that just (!) O.5 litre beetroot juice, was taken 2.5 hours before cycling. The result? The juice increased power output, a measure of performance, in both 4km (up by 2.7%) and 16.1 km (up by 2.8%) cycling time trials.I know you will be glad to see that for completeness, I’ve also included an earlier blog about beetroot’s ability to reduce blood pressure (“Beetroot with everything”)!

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Come up and look at my genes

While most geneticists may have a hard time convincing non-scientists to look at DNA gels, a company is offering DNA art portraits which allow customers to show off their own DNA bands to anyone.

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The “DNA portraits” point to bands which the company says are associated with particular characteristics as follows:

“• Sport: Show off your muscles without having to flex. This gene called ACTN2 is expressed in all muscle cells.
• Brain: This gene (IGF-2)  is associated with intelligence. It is not the only gene whose expression correlates with IQ, but one of them that is involved in development of the brain.
• Love: This gene ( NGF2 ) is one of the genes responsible for those butterflies in your stomach when you meet that special someone.
• Gender:  This gene (Amelogenin); is often used to determine whether someone is male or female.”

Is this a step on the way to potential suitors exhibiting their genetic potential through a medley of tastefully framed DNA tests? Rather than inviting someone to see their etchings, or evidence of their sporting prowess, might they can give a brief presentation of their genomic profile (lecturer’s pointing stick is not provided)?

With prices starting at £268, not everyone will be rushing to make their home look a little bit more like an academic conference. DNA 11, the company behind the idea, makes no claims that the DNA portraits are anything more than a conversation piece – perhaps centring around what else you could get for £268.

Nazim Ahmed, co-founder of DNA 11 says the service “allows clients to analyze their genes in an interesting way that creates great entertainment value for friends and family”.

For more about DNA fingerprinting and its applications, see the CAB DIRECT database.