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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(4):609-610

From the “new year/new diet” file: a British restaurateur asked her chefs their secret to staying slim. They told her that after smelling food all day while it cooked, they lost their appetite. She tested this theory by placing a patch scented with vanilla on her hand; each time she wanted a snack, she sniffed the patch instead. After a few weeks, she lost 5 lb. Next came testing at London's St. George's Hospital, where 200 volunteers sniffed patches (some vanilla, some unscented). Four weeks later, subjects with unscented patches had lost an average of 2.4 lb; those sniffing vanilla lost an average of 4 lb. One small catch: the vanilla patch made some of the subjects nauseated. No wonder it works.

“Is there a doctor on board?” The British Medical Journal has published an article describing the most common medical emergencies that physicians may be asked to help with during air travel. Examples include chest pain, collapse, asthma, head injury (objects really do fall from overhead storage bins!), psychiatric problems, abdominal pain, diabetes, allergic reactions and those well-publicized ob/gyn emergencies. Most airliners carry first-aid kits on board that may include injectable glucose, parenteral antiemetics, bronchodilators, adrenaline, antacid, opioid painkillers and aspirin. Oxygen is available on all flights, and defibrillators are available on most. Because the equipment and drugs carried on board vary, you may want to carry your own “black bag” with you when you travel—just in case.

“It's the incredible, edible, brain-boosting egg.” Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition shows that mothers-to-be who consume adequate amounts of choline during their pregnancy may increase their child's memory capabilities. Found in eggs and milk, choline may affect the development of the memory center in the fetal brain.

Are “baby-buggy bumpers” needed in the OR? A study recently published in the Southern Medical Journal suggests that portable, cushioned siderails help keep pediatric surgical patients on the table. Tiny patients, who squirm unpredictably before and after surgery, often move quickly and can fall off the table. The easily placed, cushioned siderails were developed because restraining straps are impractical for small children and infants, and pre- and post-op personnel often need to move away from the patient or may have their attention diverted. According to the five-year study of more than 2,550 patients, no falls were recorded when the barriers were used.

Grandma's chicken soup has been touted for generations as a remedy for symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections, and personal experience seems to back up that statement. However, for those looking for scientific data to support the theory, a study published in Chest describes the effect that chicken soup has in mitigating inflammation. It could account for the attested benefits of this remedy.

Seniors use prayer to cope with stress, according to a study conducted at the University of Florida and Wayne State University. The study showed that most older adults use prayer more than any other alternative health remedy to help manage the stress in their lives. Other spiritual strategies to feel good or maintain health include music, art therapy, imagery, humor, meditation, relaxation and religious counseling.

According to a research letter published in The Lancet, there has been a significant decline in protease-induced occupational asthma in the detergent industry during the past several years. This decline has been commonly attributed to enzyme encapsulation in the manufacturing process. In a recent study, however, researchers found that engineering improvements occurring in parallel with the introduction of encapsulates have also been a factor in reducing respiratory ailments in detergent-factory workers. Researchers warn that as new enzymes of “uncertain allergenic potential” are introduced, they should undergo scrutiny for their possible impact on the health of workers in these factories.

“Maybe it's time for a nice, long sabbatical …” The Canadian Medical Association Journal has published an article detailing the psychosocial profile of a presumed pathologic bear. Not just any bear, mind you—this one is Winnie the Pooh, of the classic story by A.A. Milne. In the article, even Pooh's friends are examined. Some of the dysfunctional qualities identified are ADHD and OCD (Pooh), generalized anxiety disorder (Piglet), narcissistic personality disorder (Rabbit) and dysthymic disorder (Eeyore). The article theorizes that Pooh also suffers from Shaken Bear Syndrome caused by Christopher Robin, his young owner.

The debate continues over the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of pain. Many skeptics attribute reported pain relief to the power of suggestion. A recent article in U.S. News & World Report discusses both sides of this controversial issue. The article also mentions the use of acupuncture in veterinary medicine. Some members of the American Veterinary Medical Association consider acupuncture to be “an integral part of veterinary medicine.” Proponents argue that many animals respond well to acupuncture, and that animals can't be influenced by the power of suggestion. For example, when Fluffy and Duke see a set of needles coming at them, they don't conclude, “Oh goodie—my arthritis is going to feel better now!”

Is the medical school concept of “see one, do one, teach one” being replaced by “see one, click one, simulate one”? According to an article in the American Journal of Surgery, medical education is being augmented by computer aids such as simulation and virtual reality. In traditional medical studies, hands-on learning opportunities are limited by the unpredictable flow of patients through the office, clinic, emergency unit and operating room. The variability in patient flow precludes an organized curriculum for students. However, with simulation, medical students learn procedures that require repeated practice and perform tasks on virtual tissue created by sophisticated high-end computer graphics.

Even though many Americans are willing to give out personal information to purchase goods over the Internet, most are unwilling to do the same when it comes to health information. A national Gallup survey found that only 7 percent of Americans are willing to store or transmit personal health information on the Internet. Only 8 percent thought a Web site could be trusted with this information.

Studies published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine and theJournal of Medical Screening indicate that pregnant women with hypothyroidism have a four times greater risk of miscarriage during the second trimester of pregnancy than women with normal thyroid stimulating hormone values. A population-based study showed that six of every 100 late miscarriages could be attributed to maternal thyroid deficiency. One of the studies also indicates a lower I.Q. in children whose mothers had hypothyroidism during pregnancy.

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