Weekly Roundup 2/7/2012

The Kids Are More Than All Right
Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 5, 2012

Synopsis: Drugs, alcohol and sex are all down among today’s teenagers compared to adolescents 30 years ago. Marijuana: 45 percent of today’s teenagers have smoked pot; 60 percent in 1980. Alcohol, historic lows: 40 percent report recently having consumed alcohol; 72 percent in 1980. Sex: 28 percent of boys and 27 percent of girls age 15-17 say they have had sex; 50 percent and 37 percent respectively in 1980. Possible factors in the decline: a rise in the drinking age to 21; fear of H.I.V.; and legal challenges to tobacco marketing.

Takeaway: Despite “media hype” – think “Teen Mom” and “Gossip Girl” – “there are a lot of kids who are pretty responsible,” says John Santinelli, president-elect of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

For CQ Researcher coverage, see Marcia Clemmitt, “Teenage Pregnancy,” March 26, 2010; Peter Katel, “Legalizing Marijuana,” June 12, 2009, updated July 21, 2010; Barbara Mantel, “Drinking on Campus,” Aug. 18, 2006.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Sugar May Be Bad, But Is the Alternative Worse?
Brandon Keim, Wired, Feb. 3, 2012

Synopsis: Research over the past several years has suggested that using sugar substitutes is as likely to lead to obesity and diseases including diabetes and heart disease as eating a lot of sugar. Now researchers think they may be unraveling the science that underlies the mystery.

Takeaway: In a study of rats -- who fattened on low-cal and no-cal sweeteners just as humans do -- researchers theorize that, "when the rats’ bodies learned that sweetness didn’t predict an imminent caloric rush, as would naturally be produced by sugar-rich foods, their bodies may have automatically shifted into calorie-saving mode," which would cause weight gain, Keim reports.

For related stories, see Barbara Mantel's “Preventing Obesity,” Oct. 1, 2010, and Kenneth Jost's March 9, 2001, report, “Diabetes Epidemic.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer