Monthly Archives: June 2016

Research focuses on health needs of gays, lesbians

Research focuses on health needs of gays, lesbians


By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Researchers now have a broader understanding of the health disparities suffered by gay, lesbian and bisexual people. A recent study found that these groups are more likely to suffer psychological distress, heavy drinking and heavy cigarette smoking.


The study, published in the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine journal on Monday, sheds new light on such disparities in a population-based sample of adults in the United States.
“This study was one of the largest, most comprehensive studies of its kind to find differences in health and health behaviors by sexual orientation,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, health policy researcher at the University of Minnesota and a co-author of the study. “Our findings should raise concern that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults experience health disparities.”
The researchers analyzed data collected from more than 68,000 adults nationwide as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 and 2014National Health Interview Surveys. The surveys included questions about sexual orientation, chronic conditions, mental health, alcohol consumption, cigarette use and overall health.
The researchers discovered that gay and bisexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to suffer severe psychological distress, heavy drinking and heavy cigarette smoking. Lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to experience psychological distress, poor or fair health, and heavy drinking and smoking. Bisexual women were more likely to suffer multiple chronic conditions.
“The data did not allow us to identify specific causes of health disparities in this study,” Henning-Smith said. “However, we know from other research that the experience of being part of a stigmatized minority population can lead to chronic stress, which, in turn, can have negative impacts on health and health behaviors.”
The researchers hope that the data could help to inform and encourage clinicians to be more sensitive to and aware of the specific psychological and physical needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual patients.
Additionally, health care providers should be prepared to provide clinically recommended guidelines that address the unique health needs of their patients, said Gilbert Gonzales, assistant professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University and lead author of the study.
“We need to make sure all of our health surveys and electronic health records collect information on sexual orientation and transgender identity in order to track our progress towards eliminating LGBT health disparities,” he said.
Researchers across the country are further investigating these disparities, including at the University of California, Davis Health System’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities, said the center’s founding director, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, who was not involved in the new study.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine‘s health and medicine division “has recommended the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity as a critically important way to measure quality and progress at reducing, and ultimately eliminating, disparities based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Aguilar-Gaxiola said.
The UC Davis Health System was one of the first health care providers in the nation to ask sexual orientation and gender identity questions as part of a patient’s electronic medical records.
Now, the Center for Reducing Health Disparities is implementing a five-year intervention in Northern California’s Solano County to gather more data about the health needs of the LGBT community, as well as train community leaders and health service providers about how to appropriately address those needs.
Overall, the goal is to eliminate health disparities among the Latino, Filipino and LGBT communities by collaborating with community leaders and county staff to improve access to, and the utilization of, mental health services, Aguilar-Gaxiola said.
“First, we need to have the data,” he said. “Second, there needs to be services, and those services need to be in settings that are welcoming, such as use a rainbow flag as a welcoming sign for the LGBT community. Next, pay attention to the youth who are in the process of self-identifying and know how their families respond. The youth tend to report the lowest satisfaction with mental health services.”
Aguilar-Gaxiola said he hopes this approach not only will eliminate racial and sexual orientation-related health disparities in Solano County, it could help inform how to eliminate disparities in the United States and around the world.
“Each population has its own needs and its own issues,” he said. “With the new research and data we are seeing, there is some awareness but not nearly enough of what is needed.”

Abortion ruling reactions are strong, divided on the front lines in Texas

Abortion ruling reactions are strong, divided on the front lines in Texas

For some, there were tears of joy, shock and sighs of relief. For others, there was disappointment and a vow to continue battling.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to supporters of abortion rights Monday morning. In Texas, where the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case began, reactions were strong and divided, as they were nationwide.
“I am beyond elated,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said in a written statement. “After years of fighting heartless, anti-abortion Texas politicians who would seemingly stop at nothing to push abortion out of reach, I want everyone to understand: you don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s Health, and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement of people dedicated to reproductive health, rights, and justice.”
Less enthusiastic was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said the original law “was an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women. It’s exceedingly unfortunate that the court has taken the ability to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly-elected representatives.”
The Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether two key provisions in Texas’ House Bill 2, enacted in 2013, constituted an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions in the Lone Star State. The state argued that the law protected women’s health, while opponents pointed to the closure of more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics and claimed that the law only hurt women.
The court’s decision may deter other states from pushing for “clinic shutdown” laws.
Since the passage of HB2, women in certain areas of the state have found themselves living in abortion deserts, where they’ve struggled to find services. So this ruling was a particular relief to women such as Charlotte Dunham, who lives in Lubbock, where she is the director of women’s studies at Texas Tech University.
“This is especially good news for the women in West Texas,” she said, “where so many clinics have closed and women have had to travel, in many cases, impossible distances to get an abortion, even when the pregnancy was a result of rape or the pregnancy was a danger to a woman’s health.”
But anti-abortion activists such Dorothy Boyett are poised to get back to work. Every week for two decades, she stationed herself outside a now-closed abortion clinic in Lubbock. She was overjoyed when it finally shut down and believes HB2 helped reduce abortions in her state.
“I am not expecting an abortion facility to open in Lubbock in the immediate future,” she said. “But if and when it does, I will resume my efforts to reach out to women and save babies.”
Aimee Arrambide wrote her response while crying “tears of joy” in her Austin kitchen Monday morning. Her late father was an abortion provider in Texas, and she said she could not be more proud.
“It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, surprising when the Supreme Court upholds an obvious constitutional right. What’s surprising is that taxpayers in Texas, and in dozens of other states, allow extremists to waste millions of tax dollars enacting, enforcing and defending laws like HB2,” said Arrambide, a reproductive rights program manager and policy specialist at the Public Leadership Institute.
“After being pushed back 10 steps, Texas women can now take one step forward,” she continued. “Our job is to turn this tiny stream of constitutional protection into a river of justice.”
The cross-currents, though, will undoubtedly continue to flow. After all, abortion has long been a hot-button issue in the United States.
“We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life. “The State of Texas will be unable to fully implement HB 2’s common sense regulations to protect the health and safety of women at substandard abortion facilities. Our work to protect mothers and unborn babies from abortion will continue.”
Many on either side of the debate were quick to respond Monday. But for one physician, who performs abortions in Dallas and for her own protection refuses to be named, the ruling left her stunned. She’d trained herself to expect the worst.
“I had lost faith that our system could do right by women, by women’s health, their families, their potential,” she wrote in an e-mail Monday morning. “I thought that we had gone down the tragically oppressive path so far that we had abandoned common sense, logic, compassion, evidence-based healthcare.”
But as the news sank in, she couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Overjoyed, weeping, in a state of ecstatic shock,” she continued. “Long live women’s agency to control their bodies and their lives!”

Eating Breakfast Isn’t as Important as You Think

Eating Breakfast Isn’t as Important as You Think

You’ve heard it all before: Breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” and skipping it can lead to weight gain, a sluggish metabolism, or stress. According to a new piece in The New York Times however, our beliefs about breakfast are all based on “misinterpreted research and biased studies”–propaganda, basically.


Author Aaron E. Carroll notes that almost all breakfast studies suffer from a “publication bias.” There are flaws in reporting of studies that skew findings to link skipping breakfast with causing obesity. Carroll writes:

The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others’ results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others’ results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad.

Additionally, there are usually conflicts of interest behind the studies, considering most of them are funded by the food industry. The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence, for instance,paid for a trial that concluded eating oatmeal or frosted cornflakes reduces weight and cholesterol. Go figure.

We’re conditioned from a young age to believe that breakfast is essential to performance. It turns out that’s because most of the research geared toward kids is meant to evaluate the impact of school breakfast programs. They don’t take into consideration that 15 million children in the U.S. go hungry at home–of course they would do better in school if they eat. “That isn’t the same, though, as testing whether children who are already well nourished and don’t want breakfast should be forced to eat it,” Carroll writes.

Overall, you should just go with your gut. If you’re hungry in the morning, eat. If you’re not, don’t think you’re sinning by skipping it. Finally, approach all studies skeptically–Carroll put it best: “Breakfast has no mystical powers.”

I Cut Out Sugar for Two Weeks — Here’s What Happened (And What Didn’t)

I Cut Out Sugar for Two Weeks — Here’s What Happened (And What Didn’t)

My goal here was to eliminate the processed, unnatural stuff, and I mostly succeeded, with a few tiny, unthinking slip-ups.


Ah, sugar. The thing that makes literally anything taste good. It’s in everything you love and, most importantly, in everything you might make an effort to avoid.

The worst of the sugars is sucrose, the artificial, bad-for-you stuff that’s added into foods and sweets to make them taste delicious. Not only is there a correlation between excessive sugar intake and health issues like diabetes and obesity, it is also purported that sugar is linked to bad skin, bad moods and low energy. The commonly believed reason for the latter two is that, once the addictive sugar high weans off, your energy and mood dips. Like with caffeine, but tastier and less obvious.

I decided to take the plunge so you don’t have to: cut out sugar for two whole weeks and see what kind of difference — if any — it would make. Even though I was eating quite a bit of sugary nonsense at the time, I went in pretty optimistic, thinking I could definitely tackle this.

When I started out, my skin was misbehaving quite a bit, with little pimples appearing mainly in my hairline. I wondered whether my no-sugar diet would eliminate this. I also generally have issues with maintaining a steady level of energy throughout the day, so I thought that maybe cutting sugar out might leave my energy levels more even.

For the first couple of days, I was sort of OK. It was a little bit challenging, but not, like, the worst. The easiest thing to cut out was sugary drinks, because I became wise to that whole 500-spoons-of-sugar-in-one-glass-of-soda thing ages ago, so I mainly drink water or diet drinks (I know, I know — those aspartame-containing drinks aren’t much healthier) and I never take sugar in my coffee or tea, anyway.

After a few days, though, it was apparent that sugar is in everything, especially in things that are low-fat. It’s in, like, every packaged food ever. I was having a bit of trouble avoiding sugar entirely and, sometimes, I’d already be eating something only to gander at the ingredients and realise I might as well have been drinking a Coke.

The only way to really avoid sugar, it seemed, was to eat only stuff at home, so I tried that.

I didn’t cut out natural sugars, like fructose, which is found in fruit. My goal here was to eliminate the processed, unnatural stuff, and I mostly succeeded, with a few tiny, unthinking slip-ups, mostly thanks to deceiving hidden sugars. Like, why is there sugar in a pasta salad? My bad.

So, here I am, two weeks out and, to be completely honest, I’d love to say that I’m a transformed person and my entire life has turned around, but it didn’t make that much of a difference. Maybe I wasn’t eating as much sugar as I thought I was?

The main benefit, I think, is that I somehow feel healthier. Like, on any given day, I don’t feel bad about myself and what I’ve eaten, which sugary foods have the ability to make me feel. My stomach isn’t bloated, mostly because I haven’t been adding extra, sweet treats throughout the day.

As for my energy levels, I honestly feel almost exactly the same. I still experience fluctuations in energy throughout the day, with most of my energy uselessly coming to me at night. I’ve just always been this way; I don’t think cutting out one type of food is going to change that, I guess.

My skin did improve a slight, slight bit, but really nothing that anybody else might notice. I think if I did this for long enough, though, I might see a noticeable difference. Plus, I’d probably need to cut out a whole lot of other foods, too, but baby steps, am I right?

All in all, I’d probably recommend trying this just to show yourself that you can, and the feeling of accomplishing something is pretty worth-it. It’s also a useful first step to better eating; I like cutting one thing out at a time so that I’m not suddenly deprived of 65 different food options on any given day, making me less likely to have cravings and subsequently stop eating healthfully.

Sugar is really addictive and delicious, and it’s somehow comforting to know that if I want to not eat it, I can.

  • Have you ever tried to stop eating sugar? Did you notice any differences?
  • What’s your favourite sugary treat?

How To Be a Basically Healthy Person

How To Be a Basically Healthy Person

Even if we have the best of intentions, the goals we set to get healthy (after this last slice of pizza, of course) sometimes fall by the wayside. It can be hard to stay motivated, or even properly informed, since the recommendations for what to eat and how long to exercise can be confusing and conflicting. (Fat, for example, was off the menu for years under official guidance that eating fat makes you fat, and now that advice is getting kicked to the curb.) As a result, truly healthy behaviors can have a hard time cutting through the noise. Despite everything we know about the health benefits of exercise, a recent studyfound that 43% of employed adults do not exercise often.


Yet getting healthier is still a worthy goal, and many experts in the fields of exercise, health and nutrition have clear ideas about how to get there. Here are some low-stress, bare-minimum ways to become a healthier person, even for those of us who love to eat and hit snooze.

How to eat

Eating healthy shouldn’t be a nutrient numbers game. And no: you don’t have to go veganor adopt a Paleo diet. Just make sure your plate contains more than two different colors, says Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “If it’s not, it’s boring, and you won’t meet your nutrient requirements,” she says. “If it’s green and red and brown, you can.”

After coloring your plate, make sure to consume it—and enjoy it—with someone else. “Sharing a meal with friends and family impacts our health and how we age and fare as we get older,” Meydani says.

Some countries, like Brazil, follow just that advice. Their government recommends eating whole foods, avoiding processed ones and dining with other people.

How to exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that American adults do two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, plus some muscle-strengthening on the side.

Many people don’t do any of that. A 2015 study published in the The BMJ argued that older adults, especially, find it hard to meet that government advice. “Getting inactive people to do a little bit of physical activity, even if they don’t meet the recommendations, might provide greater population health gains,” wrote study author Philipe de Souto Barreto, a researcher at University Hospital of Toulouse, in the paper.

Yet new evidence suggests they don’t need to. Barreto points out that a study of more than 250,000 older adults found that getting less than an hour of moderate physical activity each week was linked to a 15% drop in death, which means that people do benefit from even a small amount of exercise. Studies have also shown significant health benefits fromsimple exercises like walking.

Some researchers are seeing how low people can go when it comes to time spent working out. Enter the one-minute workout, where you work out as hard as possible for 60 seconds, with some warm-up and cool-down exercises thrown in, too. Even though the time spent exercising is minimal, it’s meant to be hard, and is shown to improve health and fitness. “There might be time-efficient ways to get fit,” says Martin Gibala, chair of kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada. “The notion of meeting people in the middle is positive—but there’s no free lunch.”

The takeaway

Stressing out over meeting government numbers—whether for nutrient values of the number of exercise minutes—may not be worth the headache. Getting some exercise every week and eating colorful meals with friends can be an enjoyable way to live a healthier life. Doing something, it seems, is what’s important.

Three-person babies IVF technique ‘safe’

Three-person babies IVF technique ‘safe’


The use of an IVF technique involving DNA from three people to create a baby has moved a step closer with a study that shows it is safe.

Scientists at Newcastle University are trying to help women who are at risk of passing on serious genetic disorders to have a healthy child.

Last year the UK approved laws to permit the procedure, which involves using donor DNA from a second woman.

The study in Nature found the technique will lead to normal pregnancies.

The process, known as “early pronuclear transfer” involves removing the parents’ key genetic material from an embryo within hours of fertilisation, leaving behind the woman’s faulty mitochondria.

The parental DNA, which contains all the key genes responsible for character and appearance, is then transferred into a donor woman’s embryo, which has its nucleus removed but contains healthy mitochondria.

Last year the UK became the first country to approve laws to permit the procedure.

A study involving more than 500 eggs from 64 donor women found that the new procedure did not adversely affect embryo development and significantly reduced the amount of faulty mitochondria being passed on.

Prof Doug Turnbull, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease at Newcastle University and a co-author of the study, said: “This study using normal human eggs is a major advance in our work towards preventing transmission of mitochondrial DNA disease.”

Prof Mary Herbert, also from the centre, added: “We are optimistic that the technique we have developed will offer affected women the possibility of reducing the risk of transmitting mitochondrial DNA to their children”.

But the studies showed the technique was not always successful. The amount of faulty mitochondrial DNA transferred during the procedure was less than 2%.

However, one in five of the stem cell lines created from the embryos showed an increase in carryover of defective DNA from the original embryo.

Prof Turnbull said: “Our studies on stem cells does express a cautionary note that it might not be 100% efficient in preventing transmission, but for many women who carry these mutations the risk is far less than conceiving naturally.”

Mother to child

Mitochondria are tiny structures which sit outside the nucleus of the cell and convert food into useable energy.

Genetic faults in the mitochondrial DNA mean the body has insufficient energy for key functions. This can cause a huge range of serious illnesses including muscle weakness, hearing loss and multiple organ failure.

The structures are always passed on from mother to child and have their own small amount of DNA, but it does not affect appearance or personality.

Clare Exton, aged 36, from south Derbyshire, who carries faulty mitochondria, is hopeful that the Newcastle team may be able to help her have a healthy baby.

Her mother Norma had multiple health problems due to mitochondrial disease and died aged 58.

Clare told me: “Mum got increasingly weaker over the years. She suffered epilepsy, deafness, heart and breathing problems and was very unsteady on her feet.”

Clare is partially deaf and wears hearing aids due to the faulty mitochondria she inherited. Her health is regularly monitored at the Centre for Mitochondrial Research in Newcastle.

She said: “Everyone wants to have a healthy child, but how my mum suffered it makes me even more determined that any baby I have is not affected by this terrible disorder.

“Knowing that the treatment would prevent the condition passing down future generations would be wonderful.”

Marie Austin is another patient at the Newcastle clinic. She is partially deaf due to due to faulty mitochondria and also suffers fatigue and mobility problems. Marie’s son Adam died aged 12 from organ failure due to severe mitochondrial disease

Marie said: “Adam was a very positive smiling boy but he had very serious health problems from the aged of eight which got progressively worse. I have a daughter, Kaitlyn, who’s 11 and she seems to be healthy for now. I really want her to benefit from this new treatment so in years to come she can have a child who is unaffected and I can have a healthy grandchild.”

The technique used in Newcastle would mean that the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman would combine with the DNA of the parents.

It would result in babies with 0.1% of their DNA from the second woman, and this genetic material would pass down subsequent generations.

The publication of the safety data was the last piece of scientific data required by the UK regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

An expert panel appointed by HFEA will now consider the results of the study.

If it supports the findings then the team at Newcastle Fertility Centre will be able to apply for a licence to offer the procedure to women at high risk of passing on inherited mitochondrial diseases.

Women over 50 ‘putting off cervical screening test’

Women over 50 ‘putting off cervical screening test’

One in three women over 50 has delayed or not attended their cervical screening test, which should take place every five years, according to a survey from a cervical cancer charity.

The average delay was more than two years, but one in 10 put off the test for more than five years.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust surveyed 1,000 women over 50.

It said not attending cervical screening was the biggest risk factor to developing cervical cancer.

The survey found a lack of understanding of cervical cancer and cancer screening among women in that age group.

As a result, by 2040, the charity said cases of cervical cancer were predicted to increase by 16% among 60-64 year-olds and by 85% among 70-74 year-olds if screening uptake stays at the same level.


Robert Music, chief executive at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said diagnoses were on the rise with 3,207 women a year now learning that they are suffering from the condition.

“Cervical cancer is a preventable disease so it is extremely worrying that diagnoses have risen,” he said.

“Women aged 50 to 64 are of particular concern as they are more likely to receive an advanced stage diagnosis, which means more invasive treatment, poorer health outcomes and increased risk of loss of life.”

He said uptake of cervical screening was at an 18-year low of 72%.

In the survey, women over 50 gave a number of reasons for delaying their cervical screening test.

For example, a third found it embarrassing, a quarter found it hard to book an appointment at a convenient time and one in five found it a painful experience.

Nearly 40% said being sent an appointment with their cervical screening invitation would encourage them to go.

Jane Ellison, public health minister, pointed out that cervical screening saved 4,500 lives a year.

“Even as we get older, it is important that we spot any abnormalities early so we have a better chance of preventing cervical cancer,” she said.

Cervical screening information

  • Across the whole of the UK, women are invited for cervical screening between the ages of 25 and 64
  • Women aged 25-49 are invited every three years
  • Women aged 50-64 are invited every five years

Why don’t men have good sex toys?

Why don’t men have good sex toys?


One company tries to take the shame out of masturbation

Over the past few decades, women’s sex toys have gone from seedy to chic, swapping the aisles of porn shops for those of Walgreens and Target. But when it comes to products intended to stimulate the penis, there hasn’t been much change. One of the most popular masturbation products for men, the Fleshlight, has remained largely the same since its inception in 1998 — and even that product isn’t much different from the anatomically inspired masturbation sleeves that have been sold to men for decades.

There are lots of different theories about why women’s products dominate the sex toy market. Some suggest that it’s a question of demand: men just don’t want or need masturbatory assistance in the same way that women do. Others have noted that the kind of products that are sold to men tend to be too graphic to make a play for the mainstream market — the aforementioned Fleshlight, with its vulval exterior and porn-star-laden packaging, isn’t really the best fit for Walmart.


But what if those explanations don’t get it right? What if the real thing that’s holding penis-focused toys back is our cultural attitude toward male masturbation?

Paradoxically, male self-pleasure is simultaneously more accepted and more shameful than its female counterpart. While it’s broadly assumed that men — especially young men and ones who are single — will more readily find a way to give themselves a hand, it’s not viewed as the kind of sexual education that female masturbation is. Women are encouraged to masturbate to learn what they like and experience more fulfilling sex with a partner; men are presumed to masturbate as a replacement for sex.

In addition, when men do masturbate, it’s not really considered something to celebrate. Masturbation is a fallback for the lonely and unloved, a sign that you’re too undesirable to get a living, breathing human to have sex with you. It’s not about getting to know your body, it’s a shameful strategy for achieving the goal of orgasm; and for many, that means that it’s best when through with as quickly as possible.


“Most men learn to masturbate as quickly and quietly as possible, or [while] watching porn,” says sex coach Charlie Glickman, the former education program manager for sex toy retail Good Vibrations. “The idea is grab it tight as you can, jerk your hands back and forth as fast as you can… when that becomes our habit [we miss out on] all of the other pleasure that can come from sexuality.”

Statistics from PornHub uphold this view: the average user visit is under 10 minutes — and that includes all the time spent finding a good clip and locating the best moment. Is it any surprise that our attitude of “Get it done quick, and do your best to pretend you’re with a real person” has led to a class of pleasure products that no one is bragging about?

That’s why CT Schenk created Blewit!. A 12-year veteran of the sex toy industry, Schenk is intimately familiar with the shame that surrounds male self-pleasure, and wanted to create a product that would combat the shame around male masturbation. Though other manufacturers — Tenga, Lelo, and FunFactory, to name a few — have also begun to offer a classier alternative to Fleshlight-like products; Schenk’s one of the few to explicitly make the connection between shame around masturbation, the quality of men’s sex toys, and the effect this all has on male sexual health.

At first glance, Blewit! appears pretty similar to most other penis-focused toys on the market. It has a hard outer shell; a soft, textured inner sleeve; and, well, you can probably figure out how it’s used. But there are some design features that differentiate it from its competitors — it’s sleek and easy to grip, clean-up is a breeze, and the opening doesn’t mimic any part of the human body. Its marketing, though, is what really sets it apart.

Schenk isn’t trying to sell an erotic fantasy: there are no pictures of beautiful porn performers on the packaging or website, no attempts to liken the product to being inside anyone’s body. What he offers instead is the idea of Blewit! as “pleasure training,” a device designed to help men learn more about their bodies — while also helping to combat common sexual problems. If this sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how women’s sex toys went mainstream.

Schenk believes that shame around masturbation — and the rapid-fire masturbatory habits it inspires — contributes to issues like premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and the inability to climax with a partner. In addition to the product itself, Schenk’s worked with sex therapists and educators to develop a series of education materials that promote “mindful masturbation,” a slower, more thoughtful self-pleasure process that encourages the body to appreciate subtler stimulation.

Blewit! hasn’t broken into big-box stores yet, and it may not cross into the mainstream for a while. If it — or any other male masturbation products — do manage to make it there, it’ll likely be thanks in part to Schenk’s work to recontextualize male self-pleasure as a healthy part of the human sexual experience.

It took decades for female masturbation to go from completely undiscussed to a celebrated aspect of healthy sexuality. Male masturbation has different challenges: shedding myths, misconceptions, and a whole host of bad habits as it makes its way to the mainstream. But if the mainstreaming of women’s sex toys has taught us anything, it’s that the rewards of overcoming those obstacles are more than worth it.

Today’s teen troubles: Sex, drugs and texting on the go

Today’s teen troubles: Sex, drugs and texting on the go


By Ben Tinker, CNN

It’s a question every mom and dad wants answered: What are their kids really up to?

Today, parents are getting some insight from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which has been conducted every other year since 1991. It now covers 118 health behaviors, as well as statistics on obesity and asthma.
The report notes that the prevalence of most health-risk behaviors — such as riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, physical fighting and current cigarette use — has decreased. Some behaviors and outcomes have not changed, including suicide attempts treated by a doctor or nurse, smokeless tobacco use, having ever used marijuana and attending physical education classes. Some have increased, such as being obese or overweight and not drinking milk.
The survey “helps us identify newly emerging behaviors and monitor long-standing youth risk behaviors over time,” said Laura Kann (PDF), chief of the CDC’s School-Based Surveillance branch. “While overall trends for the 2015 report are positive, the results highlight the continued need for improvements in reducing risks among teens.”
The 2015 survey includes results from a national survey, 37 state surveys and 19 large urban school district surveys, conducted among students in grades nine through 12. In all, more than 15,000 students took part in the survey. Participation was voluntary, and responses were kept anonymous.
Here are the highlights from each of the report’s six categories, as well as some insight from CNN’s extensive reporting on all of these areas of health and wellness.

1. Motor vehicle crashes remain the top cause of death.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, accounting for 23% of deaths in that age group, according to the CDC.
“Nationwide, 42% of students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving,” according to the report. “This percentage did not change from 2013.”
Every day, more than eight people are killed and more than 1,100 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the CDC. In addition to texting or emailing while driving, the agency warns about activities such as talking on a cell phone, eating or using a navigation system.
Currently, 46 states, plus Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ban texting while driving for drivers of all ages, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
“When you’re texting and driving, your reaction time decreases, your concentration decreases,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “People have likened it to driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08. Just like they say, you don’t let friends drive drunk; you don’t let friends drive while texting, either.”
New technology allows drivers to utilize auto-replies if someone tries to text or call while you’re behind the wheel. Other apps can monitor your speed (via your phone’s accelerometer) and disable your phone if it detects you’re moving too fast.
“Your best bet, which is something I’ve started doing as well, is just put the phone out of reach,” Gupta said. “However long it takes you to get home, most of those calls, those emails, those texts — they can wait.”

2. Cigarette smoking is down, but …

The report offers good news about where things stand now but is wary about the future.
“Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. “However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviors, such as using e-cigarettes.”
Current cigarette use has decreased significantly, from 28% in 1991 to 11% in 2015, according to the report. But 24% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. This is the first time the survey has measured e-cigarette use.
In May, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule that allows the agency to regulate e-cigarettes, cigars and hookahs in the same manner it regulates traditional cigarettes.
From a health perspective, teenagers — especially between ages 15 and 17 — are most vulnerable to addiction, at a time when their brains are still developing, according to a report released last year by the Institute of Medicine (PDF).
“Tobacco (is) arguably the most addictive substance on the planet, which has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, in any way, shape or form,” Gupta said. “No matter what your age, smoking is one of the single worst things you can do to your body.”
Some studies have shown that e-cigarettes can be an effective aid in smoking cessation. Other research, which has focused on teens, found that those who used e-cigarettes were more than three times as likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.
“We must continue to invest in programs that help reduce all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, among youth,” Frieden said.

3. Teens are trying opioids, too.

“Nationwide, 17% of students had taken prescription drugs (e.g., Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax) without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their life,” the report said.
Taking a prescription that hasn’t been written for you by your doctor for an explicit purpose is almost never a good idea. What’s more, in many places, it’s illegal to share pills that have been prescribed to you with someone else. Without consulting your doctor, there’s also no way of knowing what reaction you will have or what kind of interaction could occur because of another drug you might be taking or a pre-existing condition you may have.
The biggest potential problem, though, is “stacking.” It’s when someone combines one medication with another prescription drug, an illegal drug or alcohol. It can amplify the effects of one or both substances and can put your health at great risk.

4. Fewer young people are sexually active.

The percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active — meaning they had sex during the past three months — has been decreasing since 1991, according to the report. It dropped from 38% in 1991 to 30% in 2015.
But, “among high school students who are currently sexually active, condom use decreased from 63% in 2003 to 57% in 2015.”
Because of either misinformation or a lack of information, many teens are under the impression that sex while using birth control is safe sex. The bottom line: There is no pill that protects against sexually transmitted infections, with one notable exception. A medication called PrEP has been shown to be almost as effective as condoms in preventing sexual HIV transmission. Currently, the pill (brand name Truvada) is recommended by the CDC only for those at high risk of contracting the virus.
Nationwide, just 10% of students had ever been tested for HIV, according to the report. Some high school students may be worried about getting tested because they’re afraid their parents will find out through their health insurer.
One simple solution for families would be to make getting tested a yearly occurrence, at a minimum, in an effort to remove some of the stigma. If the tests comes back negative, you’ve put your mind at ease. If you do test positive, the sooner you go on medication, the better — and you won’t pass the virus on to someone else.

5. They’re skipping the soda.

The obesity epidemic in this country is getting worse. But there was a glimmer of hope in today’s report, which found a significant decrease in young people drinking soda one or more times a day. It was down from 27% in 2013 to 20% in 2015.
Calories consumed from sugar-sweetened beverages are far worse for you than calories consumed from food, even the fatty fast-food variety. That’s because without the fiber — say, in the skin of an apple — the sugar hits your liver all at once in a sort of “sugar tsunami.” What’s more, added sugars, like the kind found in sugar-sweetened beverages, are far worse for you than naturally occurring ones in fruit and dairy products.
Diet soda isn’t much better. Some interesting researchhas shown that people who drink diet soda may consumer fewer calories overall, but a higher percentage of their calories came from “discretionary foods,” such as cookies, chips, French fries and ice cream. The authors of that study say people who drink diet soda may feel justified to eat worse foods because they’re “saving” calories when it comes to their drinks, or they may drink diet because they feel guilty about eating unhealthy foods.
If you’re looking for a caffeine kick, switch to coffee or tea. If it’s the fizz you’re looking for, try seltzer with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

6. Screen time is eating into outside time.

“Sedentary behaviors are still problematic,” said Dr. Stephanie Zaza (PDF), director of the CDC’s division of Adolescent and School Health. “Although TV watching for more than three hours a day decreased from 43% in 1999 to 25% in 2015, this behavior has been completely replaced by the use of computers.”
“From 2003-2015, the percentage of high school students playing video or computer games or using a computer three or more hours per day (for non-school related work) nearly doubled, from 22% to 42%,” according to the report.
There is an upside to that. Even the most simple games are more active (at least mentally) than passively watching television. The downside? Nearly every parent would agree that when they were a kid, this time was spent outside, doing something active.
The good news is that this might just be one of the simplest problems to fix: Put down the phone and get outside.

The Strange Reason Your Skin Itches When You Work Out

The Strange Reason Your Skin Itches When You Work Out



Breaking a sweat might spark a surprising urge—the one to itch.

Itchy skin is actually a pretty common response to exercise, says Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise science at Fairmont State University

When you get moving, your heart pumps more blood to your working muscles, like your thighs while running, or your chest while bench pressing. This fills millions of capillaries.

“As the capillaries expand, they push outward, stimulating surrounding nerve cells, which in turn sends signals back to your brain,” explains Ryan.

The result? Your brain translates these signals as an itch.

The only thing you can do to lessen the itch is to maintain a workout routine. If you exercise regularly, your brain gets accustomed to the signals and starts to ignore them.

Related: Why Scratching an Itch Only Makes It Worse

But the longer the break you take from the gym, the more intense the itch will be when you return, says Ryan.

If your itching comes with welts, hives, or a feeling of faintness, call your doctor. This could be a more serious case called exercise-induced urticaria.