Episode 44: Alcohol & Sodium Intake

This week we are bringing you part 2 of the student interviews from Lisa’s Nutrition Communication course! In this class students had the opportunity to create a podcast on a nutrition topic. Four of the podcasts were chosen to be aired on the Healthy Habits Happy Homes Podcast!

Today’s episode will feature two student-led podcasts: The first is an interview with Registered Dietitian, Cheryl Strachan, all about sodium intake (created by Gislaine Levasseur, Cora Soda, & Jia Liang Zhu), and the second is an interview with Dr. Khokhar, a professor at the University of Guelph, all about alcohol intake among young adults (created by Brooke Hennig, Yee-Yan Mok, Ally Rozansky, & Regan Derrig).

Thanks to the NUTR 4090 students for all their hard work creating great podcast episodes!




Lisa Tang  0:03 

Hello, and welcome back to The Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. I’m Lisa Tang.


Sabrina Douglas  0:07 

And, I’m Sabrina Douglas. We hope you enjoyed our last podcast where we took a deep dive into sugar, featuring some of the undergraduate students in the Applied Human Nutrition Program.


Lisa Tang  0:16 

Those were some pretty sweet episodes, hey Sabrina?


Sabrina Douglas  0:18 

Yeah, they really sweetened my day.


Lisa Tang  0:20 

So, today we’re going to bring you the last two winning episodes from the Nutrition Communication Course Challenge. The first episode provides some information and really great practical tips on how you can reduce the sodium intake for the whole family. And then, right after this episode, we’ll hear some of the most recent and exciting research related to alcohol consumption among young adults.


Sabrina Douglas  0:39 

So without further ado, let’s dive into the first episode.


Student Interview 1 — SALT


Jeffrey  1:02 

Welcome everyone. I hope you’re all having a wonderful day so far, whether you’re watching this recording or listening to the audio version, we are very glad to have you joining us here today on the very first episode of the Better Health podcast.  Here, we focus on spreading knowledge on living a healthy and active lifestyle. I am your host, Jeffery, and, today, we are very excited to be joined by the Sweet Spot RD herself to discuss sodium intake. Cheryl, how are you doing today?


Cheryl  1:34 

I’m doing great. Thanks, Jeffrey, very excited to do this.


Jeffrey  1:38 

Before we get into things, Cheryl, can you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?


Cheryl  1:45 

Sure, sure. I’m here in Calgary, and I’ve been working with people who have heart concerns for 16 years now; for about 10 of those years was with our local cardiac rehab program. And, I still work part time with them. And, I founded Sweet Spot Nutrition about seven years ago to focus more in a private-practice setting for people who want a little bit of extra support.


Jeffrey  2:07 

That’s great, thank you. I personally really like that Sweet Spot approach you have — you have that, like, triple Venn diagram where you’re trying to find that sweet spot, like, combining health, what tastes good and what’s right that fits the person. I think that’s really cool to conceptualize.


Cheryl  2:28 

We have to acknowledge there are lots of other considerations when people are choosing food. And, that applies to sodium as well. Health is one thing you keep in mind. But, sometimes you have a higher-sodium food because you’re in a hurry, and you have to drop your kids off at gymnastics, or, you really are in the mood for pizza or something. And, that’s okay. You know, you decide how you find that right balance, your sweet spot.


Jeffrey  2:53  

So, to just really start us off at the basics, what really is sodium? And, why do we need to consume it?


Cheryl  3:02 

Yeah, that’s a good question, because I think a lot of people get confused between salt and sodium. Sodium is really just a mineral that’s found in our bodies — actually, we need it, for our muscles and our nerves to work properly, it helps with fluid balance — but most people get way more than they need. And that can lead to some health problems.


Jeffrey  3:20 

Right, so we all need it to survive. And, like you said, if we have a little too much, then there’s gonna be some problem. So, can you elaborate on what kind of problems do we see when that happens?


Cheryl 3:33 

Sure, sure. Yeah, I think everybody thinks first have high-blood pressure, of course, as being associated with high consumption of sodium, at least chronically, not one meal doesn’t necessarily put you there. But, if you’re doing it year after year, high-blood pressure is our biggest concern. And, that’s a huge risk factor for things like heart disease and stroke, which are major health concerns for Canadians. It can also contribute to kidney disease, as well as, actually, stomach cancer, believe it or not, and osteoporosis. That sodium in your blood, kind of, leeches calcium out of your bones. So, there are a few other reasons we want to stay away from high-sodium intake. And, I do have that sometimes people say, “Well, my blood pressure is fine.” It’s like, “Well, let’s keep it that way and help you also avoid some of these other concerns.”


Jeffrey  4:16 

Right. So, I guess the essence is we need to keep that on a balance, we always need it to live but we don’t want too much of that. So, continuing with that, where are Canadians getting their main sources of sodium every day?


Cheryl  4:34 

So, first of all, the main source of sodium is salt, but not necessarily salt that the consumer is adding in the kitchen or at the table. It’s actually — and I should just clarify because sometimes you will get confused — salt is sodium chloride, and in the Canadian diet, like I say, salt is the number one source, but it’s usually salt that’s added either at restaurants by the chef or in manufactured foods by the manufacturer. So, it’s salt that’s been added before you even see the food, and you may not realize that it’s in there. So, about 77% of our sodium comes from restaurant and processed foods. And, only about 11% comes from a salt shaker used in your home.


Jeffrey  5:17 

Yeah, I think that’s, kind of, hard to grasp, especially at home, when you’re cooking, you’re like, “Oh, I think every day I only eat, like, this much salt, like a really small spoon.” But then, when you look at the greater picture, like, every product you have, those all contain a bit of sodium. And, that’s what stacking up over the day when you eat.


Cheryl  5:39 

RIght. I think when people get to a point in their life where, maybe, high-blood pressure or another sodium-related concern is important, they start reading labels, they’re quite surprised at some of the foods that contain sodium they wouldn’t even expect. Like breakfast cereal, for example, can be a pretty significant source of sodium in some people’s diets.


Jeffrey  6:00 

So,  sodium is spread across our diet, even if we don’t look at, like, the box of salt we have at home, it’s in like everything else. With all that in mind, what factors do you think influences a person sodium intake?


Cheryl  6:16 

So, if we just, kind of, step back from choices people make, and we look from a public-health perspective, a couple of things, we know there’s a big correlation between healthy eating and socioeconomic status. So, people of higher income, higher education, tend to have healthier diets. And so, of course, those who aren’t able to get, you know, up on that socioeconomic scale tend to have more sodium in their diets. So, that’s one factor. And then, as well, on a systemic level, we have a lot of sodium in our food supply. Canada actually has more sodium added to our foods than many other countries. We have, kind of,  salty taste buds here in Canada. And so, it’s tough for the consumer when you go to the store, and it feels, sometimes, like, everything in the store is full of salt. But, in fact, that’s, of course, not the case. And, there are some strategies you can take in your own home to help limit your exposure to sodium.


Jeffrey  7:05 

Yeah, I that’s a very hard concept for people to think about. Because, it’s always, “Oh, like, I’m just somehow having too much sodium.” But yeah, out there there’s a lot of factors that we can’t control, like, how manufacturers do their things and how, like, even like socioeconomic status is even a bigger thing that you can’t really control to change. So, I think, yeah, that’s really interesting.


Cheryl  7:33 

Yeah, certainly, I think as healthcare professionals, and as citizens in general, we should be lobbying for improvements in the food system, and things like package labeling. But, in the meantime, we can also take care in our own kitchens to do what we can. So, I always tell people, “You know, first and foremost, if you just do more of your cooking at home, then going to restaurants, ordering takeout, fast food, right there, that’s gonna make a huge difference for your sodium intake.” And, you know, really trying to get more of those foods in your diet that are just naturally low in sodium and don’t have a lot of salt added to them. So, that’s, of course, things like fruit and vegetables, everybody, kind of, knows and thinks of that. Whether they’re fresh or with, you know, the cost of fruit and vegetables these days. And, some of the supply chain issues, I always like to remind people that the frozen ones are really good, too, and read the labels, most of them are just frozen as is. Sometimes they will have extra sauce, or flavouring that might add some sodium, but, you can certainly get lots and lots of fruits and vegetables just unadulterated frozen, as well. And then, of course, other things like grains. Bread, in fact, is — bread and butter baked goods, at least that whole category — is one of the biggest contributors to sodium in our diet. It doesn’t seem like much when you look at a slice of bread might be about 175 milligrams of sodium or so, but, many Canadians might have three, four or five slices of bread a day, it can really add up, right? To a pretty big chunk of how much we’d like to aim for grades — just sodium. So, taking a look at things like bread, and at some meals, you have something like pasta, or oats or rice, that you can cook without any salt.  You can’t really make bread without salt, it doesn’t work and certainly doesn’t taste very good. But, just by shifting to some of those other grades — just like with the fruits and vegetables that maybe wouldn’t have salt on at all — as well with meat and fish and chicken, you can buy those things pretty fresh, and they have very little sodium. Or, you can get flavoured, marinated or processed things like bacon, sausage, ham, that are going to be loaded with sodium. So, just looking for those fresh, minimally processed ingredients is the second big thing. And, just those two, you don’t even have to read labels, those two things will make a big difference. But, then the third thing I would say, for sure, is to start looking at the labels for people and that’s just to keep it really simple. Anything that’s 5% or less is, like, green light, you know, no worries there, at least for sodium. Of course, there are other considerations. And, if it’s a little bit higher than that you can eat that food, too. You just want to make sure, you know, is this something I really enjoy or is it nutritious in other ways?  And then, not, of course, having too many of those, especially the ones that are really high, like the canned soups, and some of the prepared mix meals where they start to look like 20, 30 40% on the labels, and that takes a big chunk out of your daily budget


Jeffrey  10:14 

For a normal person navigating this and in grocery shopping, what do you think they should prioritize when they’re looking to cut down on sodium, or to just not have that much sodium as they would?


Cheryl  10:31 

You know, I always do believe, as you know, my whole approach is — I call it the Sweet Spot Approach — where you’re looking for that balance between food you enjoy and food that supports your health to the extent that that’s important to you. And so, the places where I think people can make a big bang for the buck are like no-salt added canned goods, say, with tomato products, that’s where a lot of salt is happening in canned tomatoes. And so, if you just look for the no-salt added, they still taste really good. You don’t miss out a lot there. I mean, we just, last night, I was very tired, we had — I asked the kids,  “Could you just make some spaghetti guys? And, you guys make it,” and they, of course, opened a jar of spaghetti sauce, which is loaded with sodium. And so, I just grabbed, out of the cupboard for them, a no-salt-added canned, diced tomatoes, pop that open and mix them together. So, you still get some flavour, salt-added from that spaghetti sauce in the jar, but you get so much more just fresh tomatoes with no-salt added with that no-salt-added canned tomatoes. The other one is no-salt-added canned beans — they are pretty widely available now. So, I always, always recommend that — I don’t think you lose anything there in terms of sodium tastes, salty taste, you know, you’re not usually really benefiting from the taste of salted-canned beans anyway, it’s more of a preservative. So, things like that, where you’re not losing a lot, in terms of flavour, nutrition enjoyment, but you can cut out some sodium in those home foods.


Jeffrey  11:53 

Yeah, I love that. I never thought about kind of mixing it, so then you have a high-salt product and, like, a very low-salt product, you can come together to make, like, a medium-salt-level product. And then, it’s still enjoyable, but it’s it will go a long way in the long term of curbing sodium intake. I think that’s a very interesting way.


Cheryl  12:19 

Yeah, well, some of those convenience foods are, you know, people are busy, sometimes people have a job and kids to take care of, and so, I don’t like to say, “Well, never use convenience foods.” Gosh, we use them all the time in our kitchen, we just look for the ones that are lower in sodium. Or, if we’ve got something like that canned spaghetti sauce or spaghetti sauce in a jar, just mixing them with other things like, you say, kind of, diluting them. Something like cereal, for example, which is more sugar, but, sometimes I’ll have people who really like some of the higher-sugar cereals, Raisin Bran or Harvest Crunch — and also, by the way, those have some sodium in them — so, sometimes we’ll just mix it with a Shredded Wheat. Or, something that’s no-salt, no-sugar added. So, you’re half-and-half and you’ve got something that still tastes good to you, but it’s about half the salt or sugar in it.


Jeffrey  13:06 

Right. So, yeah, so that, kind of, maximizes what you enjoy, while also keeps you healthy at the same time. It does keep everything simple, because it’s not about, well, like, process products are bad, so you never have any.  Which, I mean, processed products are there to make our lives a little easier.


Cheryl  13:26 

Yeah, I mean, in reality, most people don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. So, we, kind of, try to strike the right balance for each person: some are more inclined to cook, some less. But, you can still eat healthy either way.


Jeffrey  13:39 

To just bring things together, sodium is a mineral that we all need to survive, it’s not the evil thing that’s going to get all of us, as long as we keep it within moderate levels without having too much of it. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is just sodium is way beyond our control,  in terms of, like, what how much we actually have, because the processing,  what you can afford and the time you have to cook, that all comes into what food you and what you buy. And, at the end of the day, it’s about, kind of, maximizing what works for you and what tastes good for you and what you enjoy. And, try to work that into, like, a balance of liking it and healthy.


Cheryl  14:28 

Absolutely. And, I do think you do have some control, for sure. We’re working on the public health system, you know, trying to do what we can to get less sodium in the food supply and make it easier for people. But, you know, that’s what I do on my blog at Sweet Spot Nutrition. It’s full of practical tips and there’s a whole section there on blood pressure and sodium, looking at some different foods that you can, kind of, swap out, like we’ve talked about today or approaches to cooking that are still quite convenient, but get you that sodium reduction that people are looking for . And, it doesn’t have to be to zero, right? We don’t need a zero-sodium diet, as I say, and you can even, you know, you can have a moderate amount. Sometimes I’ll have people count up how much sodium they’re consuming, and they’re quite pleasantly surprised to see it’s not that bad. Actually, you’re fine. Even though you might have a little bit of this or that, you know, that’s got some salt in it. Only rarely, when we get too much all the time, then this is a problem, right?


Jeffrey  15:23 

Mmmn. Thank you so much, Cheryl, for taking your time to share your wisdom with us today.  I’m sure our viewers have learned a lot. I certainly have learned a lot about sodium. So, you did talk about your blog? Would you mind telling us where else we can find you? Or where we can find the blog and all that?


Cheryl  15:41 

Sure. Sure. Yeah, it’s sweetspotnutrition.ca with the Canadian ending, not the American. And, it’s easy to find me there, as well. You can reach out and email me or my phone number’s on there. If anybody wants any support, or has a quick question, I’m always happy to answer a quick question. And, I’m on all the socials as well, at least the major ones for us, middle-aged people: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And always happy to have people reach out to those vehicles, as well.


Jeffrey  16:10 

Okay, so, for our viewers at home, remember to check out Cheryl’s website and follow her on social media, on Instagram, on Facebook and on Twitter. That’s all for today. Thank you so much for taking your time to speak to us. And, thank you everyone for tuning into the first episode of the Better Health podcast. See you next time.



Student Interview 2 — ALCOHOL



Student Host  16:38 

Hello, everyone. We are very excited about this podcast episode and we hope you enjoy this on a walk, on your commute to school or work,  or even just in the comfort of your home. We will be discussing alcohol consumption today, more specifically excessive-alcohol consumption and the consequences that come with this behaviour when it’s done in excess. We are bringing in an expert on this field and we’re very excited to hear what he has to say. Today, we will be interviewing Dr. Khokhar. Dr. Khokhar completed his undergraduate degree at Queen’s University and his PhD in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto. Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Biomedical Sciences Department at the University of Guelph. Some of his research at his lab includes understanding the mechanisms underlying schizophrenia and substance-use disorders and assessing the longterm effects of adolescent-cannabis use and how this affects mental illness. Today, our focus will be on alcohol consumption. Let’s welcome Dr. Khokhar. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself what projects, research you’re currently working on?


Jibran Khokhar  17:43 

So, as you said, the research in the lab,  sort of has two main areas of focus: on one side is trying to figure out what substance use and schizophrenia — what causes substance use in schizophrenia, what the consequences of it are, and how to treat it better. And then on the other side, it’s the effects of drug use and substance use and alcohol use during adolescence, and the longterm consequences of that. And, so, some of the work that would be related to what your topic is on today is looking at the effects of alcohol drinking during adolescence, either alone or in combination with other drug use, like nicotine use and cannabis use, how that results in longterm physical changes and functional changes to the brain, but then, also the behavioural consequences. So, for example, some of our research looks at: what does drinking or vaping at the same time do to reward-related behaviours in adulthood? Others are looking at: what does it do to cognition, our ability to understand something or our ability to remember something? Or, in some cases, we’re even looking at schizophrenia or depression-like behaviours? What is the impact of substance-use during adolescents on all of those domains?


Student Host  19:10 

Okay, excellent. Thank you. So, the next question is about, kind of, what would be the main impacts of excessive-alcohol intake in young adults? So, I guess if we could focus in on what would be some of, like, the top impacts, negative impacts of excessive alcohol in this kind of University/College students age group?


Jibran Khokhar  19:32 

And, so, that’s where it’s important to, sort of, think about it in two different ways. On one side, you have what would be the immediate or the short-term consequences, and then you have the longterm consequences, and the immediate consequences are, you know, things that we can all think of: driving under-the-influence or driving while impaired or risky behaviours, violence, potentially, or, passing out, or you know. One of the other, not consequence, but, sometimes, an impact of this could be on your scholastic or academic performance, etcetera. And, so those are more the short-term effects. And then, there are the longterm effects. And so, a lot of research has looked at the longterm effects. And, we published a few different papers on this, some looking at it from a brain-imaging point-of-view, where longterm changes in brain structure and function are observed, as well as looking at it from a behavioural point of view, where now, excessive alcohol drinking in adolescence is associated with greater risk for either psychopathology — so depression or anxiety-like behaviours — or changes in memory. And, so… in memory impairments, learning impairments. And then lastly, and most importantly, is, the more alcohol is used during adolescence, the earlier it’s used during adolescence, the greater the chances of somebody developing an alcohol-use disorder later on in life in adulthood. And so, that’s another important part of it, where, you know, we might think of alcohol as something benign, something that’s a part of the university atmosphere, all of those things, it, we don’t really recognize that there are toxic endpoints to it that are both short term, you know, that could be everything from blacking out to impaired liver function. And then, longterm effects on the brain that are, you know, in some cases irreversible. So, even if you stop drinking, some of those effects remain into adulthood. And so, those are some of the domains — without getting into, you know, specific things of, oh, you know, white-matter changes or volume changes in the brain, or, you know, what kind of memory tasks or cognitive changes — but these are the, sort of, bigger domain that effects have clearly been seen in both in human studies, as well as in animal studies that have been trying to model some of this. And, as you can understand, in human studies, there’s all sorts of other considerations, socioeconomic status, genetic factors, etc, that we can’t control for. But, in animal studies, where an animal — the only thing that’s changing is their exposure to alcohol — we’ve seen clear changes that are long term in terms of behaviour, as well as brain function.


Student Host  22:35 

Okay. Excellent. Wow, that’s a lot, a lot of great information. So, for these human studies, what kind of age, early adolescence, what age would that be that you are looking at?


Jibran Khokhar  22:46 

Yeah, so it all, you know, there, there are studies, there’s epidemiological studies, and then there’s brain-imaging studies there. So, it all depends on what type of study is being looked at. For example, the biggest study that’s being done right now, as we speak in the US, it’s called the ABCD, the “Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study, where they have recruited, I think, 10,000 12-year olds, that they’re going to monitor over the next 10 years and ask them questions about their substance and alcohol use, and do brain scans and do a variety of testing over the next 10 years to really begin to see in a prospective manner, right? Like most studies are retrospective studies where they’ll assess somebody and ask them, “How much did you drink?” And there’s all sorts of biases that go into how much people report drinking, some of them might not even remember, and people don’t usually have an accurate reflection or recollection of how much they drank, especially if we have the time that they were used. And so this study, the ABCD study, is going to give us a good, sort of, prospective view on things. But, the studies really differ. You know, some studies have looked at users versus never-users at the time, they might have been 12, or 13 or 14, all the way up to 18. And, some others are looking at their outcomes, where they’re 21-years-old, or 22-years-old, and something along there, and then being asked, you know, “How much did you drink when you were younger?” And then, you find great comparison groups. So, for example, there’s a nice comparison group that’s often used in these studies — they’re referred to as the teetotallers. And, they are those that, due to their convictions, don’t drink at any point in their lives. And so, we can compare the normal development — what that would have looked like without alcohol, to development what it looks like with alcohol — and so, there’s no real, you know, single answer to when people are studied. It all depends from study-to-study changes, from what the question being asked by each of those studies is, but, the answer to your question, the ABCD study is probably going to provide us the most conclusive answers that we’re looking for. Because, we have both large number of people and adolescents in that study, but then we can also follow them over the period of 10 years, see what’s changing in their brains, see whats changing in their behaviour. And, we have very in-depth family histories and other things like that that will be I think, our most powerful look into the causal effects of this, because most of the other epidemiological studies are exactly that they’re association studies, right? If somebody drank, what are their outcomes? But, we can’t causally linked them, but, at least, in these individuals, we can see that this is where they were before. And now, after the drink, this is what the change was.


Student Host  25:48 

Yeah, that’s fascinating. Definitely something we’ll look into and look forward to hearing those results in 10 years. Sometimes alcohol is referred to as a gateway drug. What do you think of this statement? Do you agree with that? And what kind of effects on the brain does alcohol have that could lead someone to this conclusion?


Jibran Khokhar  26:07 

So the gateway hypothesis is very popular. And, it’s an important one, because people talk about how drugs like alcohol, cannabis or nicotine may give rise to the future use of harder drugs. What we can’t tell from these hypotheses is, would that person have gone on to use these drugs anyway? Like, for example, you know, there’s a great deal of genetic overlap between somebody who is going to use alcohol versus somebody who’s going to use nicotine, versus who’s going to use cannabis. And so the gateway hypothesis, while you know, Denise Candell, who suggested this, is somebody who, you know, is influential in the field, they don’t really, you know, the hypothesis itself doesn’t necessarily capture the potential confounding things that might be contributing to this. And so,  it’s really important for us to, to think about what the potential confounds are. Having said that, however, this is something we can model in animal studies. And so, if you gave animals adolescent exposure to alcohol, they actually do show increased intake of nicotine, increased intake of other drugs, and especially increased intake of alcohol itself in adulthood. And so, there are some priming or some changes that happen into the brain that make the brain more vulnerable to substance-use later on in life. And so, that’s, I think, one thing that I can say or suggest, is that there might be some effects at the level of the brain, but as far as the whole “gateway hypothesis” goes, the jury’s still out on it, because there could have been other factors that were contributing to this person going on to use other hard drugs, that just ended up showing up or being related to their alcohol-use in adolescence. It’s just that the same person may have a more risk-taking profile, right? That they like taking risks, and so they would be more likely to try alcohol, and then, they might be more likely to try another harder drug. They might be more impulsive, they might be more…. And so, those are the sort of things that are important to consider:  what are those underlying factors that may be contributing to both the alcohol-drinking, at this point, and, then, the later use of other drugs? And so, those are the, I guess, the important considerations whenever we’re talking about these things,


Student Host  28:41 

Right. So, it’s maybe safe to say that it’s not necessarily a gateway drug, but the consumption of alcohol doesn’t, it doesn’t help your chances of, kind of, staying away from those other substances that are harmful to adolescents.


Jibran Khokhar  28:55 

Yes. And, you know, it’s the important thing is alcohol, in some ways, you know, even though illegal drugs and opioids and cannabis get a bad rap, alcohol remains probably one of the most toxic materials that people regularly put into their body. In terms of years of life lost, in terms of productive life lost, in terms of morbidity and mortality worldwide. You know, there was a really nice study that came out in Lionheads Now (?) three or four years ago, that showed that the safest amount of alcohol consumed is zero. So, the only safe amount of alcohol consumed is zero. So, there are harms associated with alcohol, its just as a society we don’t recognize those harms and we, sort of, we’ve agreed to be okay with them. That doesn’t mean that the harms don’t exist.


Student Host  29:51 

Yeah. That’s a great way to put it. Thank you for that. So, moving on a little, we watched your TED Talk, which was excellent. Very well done. Could you explain a little bit about how, not only parents, but schools, such as universities, colleges, could breed a more positive environment on alcohol and drug consumption?


Jibran Khokhar 30:14

I think that is an important question. I think, what we need to do is equip students with the tools to make the right decisions for themselves. You know, emerging adults, young adults, they are looking for that sort of agency, they are looking to make those, sort of, decisions themselves, while dealing with a developing brain, right? Like the brain is still developing — the frontal cortex, the, sort of, impulse-control parts of the brain haven’t fully developed yet. And so, that’s what you’re up against, you know, while the limbic regions of the brain are in overdrive, and they’re really pushing you to try these things, and there’s a greater influence on sociability and greater influence on social influence and all of that during this age. It’s important for us to equip students with the necessary information. So, I teach a fourth year toxicology class, “Tox 4000,” and we actually made a website and made a series of infographics and YouTube videos and Tik Tok, etc, talking about the effects of alcohol, to try to have evidence-based data and put it in the hands of students who are making these decisions. And so, I think that’s what we need to do and have more education approaches during orientation week, you know, wherever, you know, wherever students might find themselves. You know, one of the most effective approaches that I’ve actually seen is information about alcohol in bathroom stalls, for example. So that, you know, where you’re forced to sit and read something for a minute or two, that might be a good place to think about it. But, and to produce it in a manner that’s both visually appealing, but also has actual content, instead of, you know, just using the “Just Say No” approach or, you know, putting fines or coming down heavy handedly. Instead of policing, I think we should focus on educating that would produce better outcomes.


Student Host  32:18 

Yeah, that’s a great point. And, I think, if we’re looking at targeting university and college students, they are interested in that information, right? And the research that’s been done, they, kind of, have that mind to look at that. So, that might be a better way to target university and college students. So, Tik Toks and the videos, what you just mentioned you’ve done with your class, is that all available, kind of, to everyone online?


Jibran Khokhar  32:29 

I think the link is alcohol-toxicity.uoguelph.ca. And so, you can check it out.


Student Host  32:56 

Okay, excellent. Yeah, we’ll definitely link that to the podcast. Before we let you go, is there one thing you would leave our listeners — our target audience is college and university students,  so that’s kind of been our focus of the discussion — but, is there one piece of advice that they could get out of this podcast? What would it be?


Jibran Khokhar  33:26 

I would say that one piece of advice would be:  do your homework. All of the decisions that we make should be informed decisions —  be their health care, be there related to whatever else, you know, the courses we choose, the dorm we decide to stay in, the housemates that we live in, we make informed decisions. Let your consumption of drugs and alcohol also be an informed decision. Find out, you know, NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has some great resources about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain. Read up on it. So, at least you’re making an informed decision instead of just making a decision that’s purely driven by peer or societal pressures. And then, the other thing that I would add to this is that it’s important not only for us to be making these decisions in an informed manner, but also think about the use-patterns, as well. Like, if you’re going to be using, it doesn’t mean that you have to, then, you know, be binge drinking and intoxicating to a large amount. Instead, you know, the same thing that I say to people about cannabis, “Start Low and Go Slow,” is the mantra that I would share with anybody about any and all drug use.


Student Host  24:17 

That’s very well said. Thank you so much.


Jibran Khokhar  34:19 

It was a pleasure to be on this podcast.


Student Host  34:21 

Yeah, thanks so much for your time and for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. We