All posts by Isabel Draper

Proper Condom User: Don’t Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Source: CDC Twitter

Isabel Draper

Last July, the CDC tweeted a reminder that condoms should not be washed or reused in any way, shape, or form. One condom should be used for one sexual act and then thrown away immediately. While this may seem like common sense, the CDC put out this reminder because the data that they collected indicated that people were reusing condoms. The World Health Organization recognizes that education on the proper use of condoms should be improved and that inexpensive condoms should be readily available in order to discourage people from washing or reusing condoms.

The Cuban government subsidizes condoms to the point that a pack of three costs about four cents. Consequently some people use them for fishing, making balloons, and as slingshots. While these may seem like comical uses for condoms, they are still very important for their primary purpose: preventing pregnancy and the transmission of STIs. Cuba has one of the lowest rates of HIV infection in Latin America and its’ fertility rate is about 1.6- which is below the rate needed to sustain the current population size.

Condoms should be used once per sexual act to prevent the transmission of STIs and to minimize the risk of pregnancy.


Chocolate Milk: Post Workout Drink?

Image result for chocolate milk workout

Source: Stack

Isabel Draper

‘Got Milk?’ ads were everywhere at one point. Recently, I saw an ad for drinking chocolate milk for recovery after a workout ( It seems the milk industry is advertising chocolate milk as a viable choice for refueling after a workout. Is there some value to a specific drink over a balanced diet to get healthy after exercise?

One particular study is often cited as supporting the use of chocolate milk as a post workout drink.  This study has an interesting design: it compared the observed difference between the performance of three different groups of cyclists who rode for two hours and then refueled with either water, chocolate milk, or gatorade. The cyclists then rode until exhaustion. Riders that drank chocolate milk had a greater time to exhaustion and  total work than riders who drank a carbohydrate replacement drink with the same carbohydrate content. The abstract states that these “results of this study suggest that chocolate milk is an effective recovery aid between two exhausting exercise bouts.” One issue with this study, like many other nutritional studies, is that it is observational in nature. The conclusion that chocolate milk is a superior recovery drink is solely based on the observation that those riders who drank chocolate milk had a slightly greater time to exhaustion and total work in comparison to the other riders.

Chocolate milk from the grocery store has a ratio of carbohydrates-to-protein of about 6-1 and contains a significant amount of sugar. The desired ratio of carbohydrates-to-protein for a recovery drink is 4:1. Drinking an excessive amount of calories in the form of sugar after a workout may not be better than a balanced diet. Different levels of activity necessitate different caloric intakes after each activity.  That said, if you enjoy a cold glass of milk after working out, then you can continue drinking it as long as you keep in mind its extra calories. But, don’t add a glass of milk to your routine simply based on marketing by the milk industry.

Don’t Believe the Dairy Industry—Chocolate Milk Isn’t An Ideal Post-Workout Recovery Drink

Activated Charcoal

Image result for activated charcoal

Source: Health Magazine

Isabel Draper

Some health interventions are framed as  “detoxification” or the removal of harmful substances from one’s body. It seems plausible that if one overindulges in unhealthy foods or substances or if one is exposed to toxins in the environment that removal of unhealthy molecules from the body would be helpful. Rather than a return to healthy habits, detoxification often takes the form of a commercial product or treatment. Let’s turn a curious eye on one such product that seems to be gaining popularity: activated charcoal.  

We should start with the understanding of how well the body is designed to handle toxins. For instance, your kidneys are designed to remove toxins and keep your physiology in balance. The kidneys filter about 120-150 quarts of blood a day to produce about 1-2 quarts of urine composed of waste and extra fluid. If your kidneys are working properly, they are doing the appropriate job of filtering your blood and removing an excess fluids or waste like urea from the body. Your liver converts ammonia to urea, a less toxic substance. It also is responsible for breaking down alcohol, for producing the bile needed to digest and to absorb fats, and for getting rid of the byproducts from the breakdown of medications. These are just a few things that our liver does as one of the largest organs in the body. We should all be skeptical of products or services that claim they can outperform these systems.   

Activated charcoal is currently being marketed as a tool for detoxing your body that can be consumed in combination with lemonade, ice cream, and other food products.  Activated charcoal is normally used to treat overdoses of medications like aspirin. It is very porous allowing it to trap molecules, both medications or toxins and helpful substances such as  vitamins. It’s not clear that the addition of activated charcoal to your diet can improve upon the body’s physiology. And, it could block the absorption of important nutrients and medications and diminish your health.

Detoxing is an overly simplistic solution for a complex problem. We live in a world which is chemically complex and there are many chemicals in our environments and in our bodies. Yet, the presence of chemicals does not directly translate to a health risk. The idea that we live in a toxic environment  to which our bodies are unsuited is largely inaccurate and creates an unhealthy relationship with the world.