Tag Archives: Tonic

‘Drag Race’ Tells Us a Lot About the Queens’ Jacked Up Eating Habits

For me, RuPaul's Drag Race, the drag queen competition-based reality TV show that's in its ninth season, is prime fodder for dinner conversations with my friends. We often dissect the week's episode over a panini or a plate of nachos. Halfway through burritos last Monday, I had a realization: "We never see the queens eat on the show. What are they eating?" My best friend Fitz stopped mid-yucca fry with bewilderment. I realized we needed to find out.

A few things we knew already: In episode five of this season, contestants discussed sensitive body image issues within the LGBTQ community: After Eureka apologized for making a joke about eating disorders, Valentina admitted, "This is just such a touchy subject for me because I do probably still have an eating disorder. Before I left [to film the show], I promised my mom that I would eat every single day. It's so hard because sometimes I feel like I'm force-feeding myself."

Another contestant, Shea Couleé, also jumped into the conversation, saying, "I applaud you guys for opening up because in the past I've had a deep, deep battle with bulimia," citing beauty-standard pressures within the gay community (not necessarily the drag community) to look a certain way. "Sometimes people don't understand that, though we come across as these really strong, beautiful creatures, sometimes we're really struggling on the inside," she added.

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Virtual Reality Could Help Break America’s Opioid Addiction

It's like a crawly feeling inside," says Judy*. "You get hot, then chilled, and you feel like you want to run away." The 57-year-old has short dark-grey hair and a haunted expression. She's breathless and sits with her right leg balanced up on her walking stick, rocking it back and forth as she speaks.

Judy explains that she suffers from constant, debilitating pain: arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia and daily migraines. She was a manager at a major electronics company until 2008, but can no longer work. She often hurts too much even to make it out of bed.

She's taking around 20 different medications each day, including painkillers, antidepressants, sedatives and a skin patch containing a high dose of the opioid drug fentanyl, which she says did not significantly help her pain and which she's now trying to come off. Her physician has been tapering the dose for months, so in addition to her pain she suffers withdrawal symptoms: the chills and crawling dread. Then her clinic announced that it would no longer prescribe any opioids at all, the unintended result of new, stricter measures aimed at clamping down on opioid abuse. Faced with losing access to the drug on which she is physically dependent, she has come to another clinic, Pain Consultants of East Tennessee (PCET) in Knoxville, desperate for help.

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The Creepy, Insane, and Undeniably Romantic World of Cryonics

I'd expected to hear a lot of convincing arguments that would persuade me to sign up to have my body cryogenically frozen when I die, but proving that I'm more rational than Paris Hilton wasn't one of them.

"About ten years ago there was a rumor going around that she had signed up to have her body preserved, so my colleagues and I worried that perhaps Paris Hilton was more rational than us," says Anders Sandberg, a research fellow with the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. Sandberg is an expert on human "enhancement" who himself is signed up to be frozen one day.

On one level, of course, doing anything because Paris Hilton pressured you into it is a really bad idea, Sandberg admits. "But we humans are emotional beings, so the fact that some of our Oxford academic pride was wounded really did spurn us to bite the bullet."

As insane, or perhaps creepy, as it sounds, hundreds of people in the US are 'frozen,' stored in stainless steel chambers at a cozy -196°C in liquid nitrogen. Their cases are checked daily while they're kept "in stasis," as cryonic believers call it, waiting until new medical technologies can cure or repair whatever ailed them, whether it be a heart attack, dementia, or perhaps even cancer. At the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale Arizona, 150 "patients" are frozen in time, and another 996 have signed up for the same fate.

The Cryonics Institute in Clinton township, Michigan holds a similar number—150 humans, plus more than 100 pets. "Maybe the idea of reviving people who are cryogenically frozen sounds far-fetched, but in my field, you know that you can bring back the dead all the time," says Dennis Kowalski, a director at the Cyronics Institute who works as a paramedic by day. "I've been able to take a lot of what I learned from emergency medicine and integrate it into cryonics. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Death is a process, and we simply slow that process down. I like to say that we provide the ambulance to the hospital of the future."

Moreover, Sandberg points out, there are thousands—if not millions—of people alive today who were once frozen sperm or egg cells, or frozen embryos. "In a sense, those people were cryonically frozen, and yet they are today alive," he says. Moving up in size, scientists demonstrated last year that embryonic rabbit kidneys could be frozen, thawed, and grown into full-sized and fully functional organs, capable of transplant into living animals.

In the wild, Canadian wood frogs annually freeze solid, thanks to special proteins in their blood that act as a natural antifreeze and prevent the formation of ice crystals that would cause cell damage—so it is theoretically possible for an entire body to be kept below freezing temperature and later revived. Cryonisists have already been replicating this strategy for decades: All preserved bodies are not technically "frozen," because all the blood is drained out the moment they legally die, and slowly replaced with a biological antifreeze (along with a cocktail of more than a dozen different drugs) that perfuses into the body and prevents ice crystals from forming and damaging cells. Hence why a body that would be a toasty 32°C can be kept at -196°C potentially indefinitely. But sperm, eggs, kidneys, and frogs are one thing. What about that most human of organs, the brain? There's no point in being revived if your memories, knowledge, and personality don't come with you.

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Scientists Found Cancer-Causing DNA in Stem Cells Given to Patients

For decades, stem cells have offered rich potential, promising an age of "regenerative medicine." They're being used to in early-stage treatment for Parkinson's disease, macular degeneration, hearing loss, arthritis, and paralysis, among others, with new applications (impotence?) appearing seemingly all the time. They're generally hailed as a motherlode for medical treatment, even as some unregulated clinics cross the line from research into dangerous hype.

But a recent letter in the journal Nature shows that some of the stem cell lines used in these therapies have been found to contain cancer-causing mutations. That raises the concern that patients treated with the cells could face a real risk of developing cancer—though that hasn't happened so far.

To reach that conclusion, Harvard scientists examined 140 stem cell lines, most of which were registered with the National Institutes of Health; each line is a collection of identical stem cells that's reproduced and provided to researchers. They performed DNA sequencing and found that five lines had cells with a cancer-causing mutation, specifically in the TP53 gene. Of those five, at least two have been used in clinical trials of experimental treatments. It's not known how many people received them.

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The Medical Establishment Does Not Care About Doctors

I had been awake for 30 hours. I was hungry. I had to use the bathroom. I couldn't think straight. Yet here I was, standing beside the senior surgeon at the operating table. We were late in the surgery, and my right hand was shaking. For the past three hours, I had been holding a retractor to better expose the patient's neck.

Under the heavy glare of the operating room lights, my eyes began to close. I was falling asleep standing up.

As I drifted off, my body started leaning over to one side. Unfortunately, the senior surgeon noticed. And he was not happy.

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How Bad is it if I Never Eat Any Vegetables?

The Scenario: As a child, your friend sat at the dinner table most nights protesting that bitter garbage called broccoli. The only veggies he eats now are usually sprinkled on top of a deep-dish pizza.

The Reality: Most of us actually have a subpar veggie intake. Research shows only around nine percent of Americans get the recommended two to three cups a day. (In Mississippi, that number goes down to 5.5 percent.) Plenty of people, aside from your broccoli-snubbing friends in Jackson, go long stretches without laying eyes on a fresh vegetable. In some third world countries, or during long stretches of military deployment, they're just not available. (Remind your friend of that so he feels like a jerk.)

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Here’s Another Reason You Might Want to Quit Diet Soda

Evidence about just how terrible diet soda is for your health is mounting. The latest? People who consumed at least one diet drink a day were nearly three times as likely to have a stroke or develop Alzheimer's disease compared to people who had them less than once a week, per new research in the journal Stroke. And you thought saving the calories and sugar would be worth it.

Before you spit your soda across the room, you should know how the study was conducted. Participants in the Framingham Heart Study filled out food-frequency questionnaires, which asked them to recall what they ate throughout the year. For instance, they might say they drank soda, on average, twice per day, once a month, or never. (As you can imagine, this can be an inaccurate way of gathering data. It's easy to forget what you eat. Quick: What did you have for lunch yesterday?)

Researchers had participants fill out these questionnaires three times over seven years. After ten years, they looked at how many cases of stroke and dementia occurred in two study groups: One group of 2,888 people over 45 were monitored for stroke, and a second group of 1,484 people over 60 were monitored for dementia; most of the participants were white (a notable fact given that people of color have higher stroke risk in the first place). They found that about 3 percent of the participants had a stroke (97 people), while 5 percent were diagnosed with dementia (81 cases of dementia, 63 of which were Alzheimer's disease). Diet soda-drinkers were 2.96 times more likely to have a stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's.

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The FDA Finally Approved a Weed Trial for Vets with PTSD

Roberto Pickering lost many friends as a sniper for the Marine Corps during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It marked the start of a war that would lead to thousands of deaths among US service members. But for those who did come home, their prospects were also grim. About 20 veterans commit suicide every day, and Pickering was almost one of them—until he started smoking weed again.

"I was at war and then I literally was in my parent's basement drinking myself to death for three years," recalls Pickering. "I was a mess."

An estimated 11 to 20 percent of the US veterans who invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The numbers are similar for those who served in the Gulf and Vietnam wars. The treatments available now are just not working for everyone. It's widely accepted among PTSD therapists and researchers that there's a need for novel solutions.

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What Is Sexual Fluidity, Really?

"My guy pretty like a girl. And he got fight stories to tell," Frank Ocean sings on his new single. "I see both sides like Chanel."

Ocean is one of a growing number people—albeit, probably the one with the highest profile—who in recent years have begun to publicly resist strict labels on their sexuality. It could also explain why, especially among students in my human sexuality classes, one of the most frequent questions I get is on the topic of sexual fluidity. Thanks in part to celebrities like Ocean—not to mention Miley Cyrus , who identifies as pansexual, and Kristen Stewart, who has said that she's bisexual but also declared herself "so gay " on a recent Saturday Night Live episode, sexual fluidity is having a moment.

And what I've found is that people are intrigued, but also confused. So, what exactly does it mean to be sexually fluid? Let's start with the basics: The term first gained widespread popularity after the publication of a 2008 book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire , by the researcher Lisa Diamond, a psychologist at the University of Utah.

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Is High Sex Better Than Drunk Sex?

Two of the most accessible and common recreational drugs in America, alcohol and cannabis, have earned their place in many hearts as a key to enhancing the overall experience of sex. Weed is an aphrodisiac, wine can improve libido, and beer can make dicks harder—we've heard it all, from the best researched to the flimsiest of claims.

But which does the trick most effectively? I reached out to some professionals who study human behavior, sexuality, alcohol and cannabis to learn more about which substance heightens our pleasure the most during sex.

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