Energy Drinks: Friend or Foe?

Mar. 29, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under Food and Agriculture
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Cross-posting from MHNews by Rachel Foster '13

A few weeks ago, my mother shared her first energy drink experience with me. She said that after drinking it, she had never before felt so focused to accomplish daily tasks. For my mom, this is a big deal. Although I tend to steer away from energy drinks, I thought, “Wow, this must be a miracle-in-a-can!” The next time I was at the local corner store, I bought one and expected a burst of motivation to rush through me. An hour after I drank it, I felt nothing. So what is the hype with energy drinks? How do they work? I decided to get some answers.

One of the most common ingredients in energy drinks is caffeine, a stimulant which increases blood pressure and heart rate. Stimulants produce many psychological effects as well. Some of these more complex effects were discussed at the Biology department seminar on Feb. 15, where John D. Salamone, Ph.D., from the UConn. Department of Psychology, gave a lecture about his research on adenosine antagonists. Salamone said that increased levels of adenosine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, may cause sleepiness, while caffeine, which blocks adenosine, reverses this effect, producing the sense of wakefulness associated with a caffeine rush. Dr. Salamone also mentioned that an individual tolerance to caffeine will vary depending on both genetic factors and frequency of consumption...

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Sandra Postel: Water for Food, Water for Life -- Adapting to a Warming, Water-Stressed World

Mar. 29, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under Events
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With water stress, climate change, and rising food demands increasing around the globe, the question arises: Can we meet the food and water demands of eight billion people while at the same time protecting the aquatic ecosystems that sustain our economies and the planet’s web of life?

Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, says the answer is yes, but only with a transformation in how we use, manage, and value fresh water. She will tackle these topics when she speaks about “Water for Food, Water for Life: Adapting to a Warming, Water-Stressed World” Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 pm in Hooker Auditorium.

For the last half century, the construction of large dams, river diversions, and millions of groundwater wells helped meet the population’s water demands. Today, 70 percent of the world’s water goes to agriculture but nearly one billion people are chronically hungry. Rivers are drying up, aquifers are being depleted, and freshwater ecosystems are being threatened.

In her talk, Postel will discuss several new strategies to deal with these issues, such as the establishment of “sustainability boundaries” to preserve ecological health and the deployment of technologies and practices to double water productivity, among others.

In 2010, Postel was appointed the Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, where she is the lead water expert for the society’s freshwater initiative. She is the author of several books, including Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, which was the basis for a 1997 PBS documentary, and is coauthor, with Brian Richter, of Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature. Postel was also named one of the world’s “greatest minds” by Mike Wallace in his book The Way We Will Be 50 Years from Today.

From 2000 to 2008, Postel was visiting senior lecturer in environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College, and, late in that term, served as interim director of the College’s Center for the Environment.

This lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Science Center Directorship of Mount Holyoke College and the Miller Worley Center for the Environment.

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Food prices hit record high, spurring worries about global unrest

Mar. 03, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under General
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UNITED NATIONS -- Food prices are continuing their global surge, raising the specter of unrest in developing nations.

The global food price index hit a new record high for the third straight month, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said today. The index averaged 236 points in February, 2.2 percent higher than the previous all-time high set in January.

The index averaged 90 when FAO first began tracking world food prices in 1990. February's monthly high is 36 points higher than the average for all of 2008, when soaring prices sparked rioting and food-export bans in some developing nations.

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NYT: U.N. Raises Concerns as Global Food Prices Jump

Sep. 09, 2010

Posted by Ruby Maddox under In the News
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UNITED NATIONS — With memories still fresh of food riots set off by spiking prices just two years ago, agricultural experts on Friday cast a wary eye on the steep rise in the cost of wheat prompted by a Russian export ban and the questions looming over harvests in other parts of the world because of drought or flooding.

Food prices rose 5 percent globally during August, according to the United Nations, spurred mostly by the higher cost of wheat, and the first signs of unrest erupted as 10 people died in Mozambique during clashes ignited partly by a 30 percent leap in the cost of bread.

“You are dealing with an unstable situation,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

“People still remember what happened a few years ago, so it is a combination of psychology and the expectation that worse may come,” he added. “There are critical months ahead.”

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