Q. The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays are a big deal in my family. There are many get-togethers, decorating, church activities, food and kids. It’s fun, but by New Year’s Day, I’m whipped. This year, my daughter is having a Christmas wedding, too. I’m already flat out of energy, but I want to enjoy every moment. Will energy drinks help? — Marcia, Amherst, Mass.
A. Some college students think the most important discovery of the past decade was Red Bull. Uh, maybe not. Most of the boost in energy drinks comes from two things — sugar and caffeine — and the effect is short-term. Then it lets you down. That’s why people get addicted to them. Overloading on caffeine also could backfire big-time for you by throwing your nightly sleep to the wind.
We’d suggest something entirely different: ribose. It’s actually a sugar, but a completely different kind. Ribose is made in your body, where it’s used to build key energy molecules, but you also can get it as a supplement. The most convincing evidence for ribose’s ability to infuse energy is that taking a daily dose gives a real boost to people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome — diseases characterized by exhaustion. The only side effect is that some people feel too much energy.
Q. There’s no breast cancer in my family, but I’m petrified of getting it. And during the past year, two friends my age (56) have been diagnosed with it. I’m not a big drinker, but I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner three or four times a week. Does that make me more likely to get breast cancer? — Allison, Sanibel, Fla.
A. For women, the question is increasingly: To drink, or not to drink? The answer depends on whether you have any family history of breast cancer or heart disease/stroke.
You see, alcohol protects your vascular system (think heart attacks and strokes) but inhibits your immune system (think cancer and infections). You don’t mention heart attacks or stroke, but if there’s any history of either in your family, we would lean toward continuing to enjoy your glass of wine. There’s clear evidence that for women (men, too), having no more than one drink a day (no more than two for men) is heart- and brain-protective. Since there’s no breast cancer in your family, those benefits outweigh your breast cancer risks, because cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
But if there aren’t any heart attacks or strokes in your family history, things shift.
Some impressive new research has just linked even light drinking, like yours — three to six drinks a week — to a modest increase in breast cancer risk compared with women who don’t drink at all. Assuming there’s no vascular disease in your family and weighing the “peace of mind” factor, we’d suggest half a glass on most nights.
The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.