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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(6):1007

Baby teeth are a potential source of stem cells. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and summarized in a BMJ news brief, researchers found that the dental pulp of front incisor teeth contains robust stem cells. The researchers were able to isolate the stem cells from the baby teeth of children seven to eight years of age. According to the news brief, stem cells from tooth pulp could be an uncontroversial alternative to embryonic stem cells.

What's in the bottle? When it comes to echinacea, it's anyone's guess. According to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, thin-layer chromatography revealed no measurable traces of the herb in six of 59 echinacea supplements sold in retail stores in the Denver area. Researchers conducted tests on single-herb echinacea preparations in tablet, liquid, and other forms. Of 21 preparations that were labeled “standardized,” only nine met the quality standard described on the label. Overall, the researchers found that the quality standard of the product was as described on the label in 31 (52 percent) of 59 echinacea supplements.

Men with a particularly keen sense of taste may be at increased risk for obesity, cancer, and other health problems, according to findings presented at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As reported in Science, one study found that men 65 years and older with a greater sensitivity to bitter tastes, such as those found in vegetable compounds, were more likely to develop colorectal polyps; these men ate fewer vegetables and were likely to be overweight (both risk factors for colon cancer). Another study found that men, particularly “supertasters,” who had a history of ear infections were more likely to be overweight because of damage to a nerve that controls taste and fat sensation. The findings reveal that taste perception may influence diet enough to affect a person's health.

Will it be a boy? Will it be a girl? Watch how much the pregnant woman is eating! A study published in BMJ shows that pregnant women who are carrying boys have a 10 percent higher energy intake than those who are carrying girls. In an analysis of data from an international prospective study, researchers assessed the dietary intake of 244 U.S. women during their second trimester. Women carrying boys, rather than girls, had higher intakes of protein (8 percent), carbohydrates (9.2 percent), lipids of animal origin (10.9 percent), and lipids of vegetable origin (14.9 percent). The researchers speculated that the strongly anabolic testosterone secreted by the fetal testicles could be responsible for the higher energy intake of women carrying boys.

Bigger portions, bigger kids? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that children eat more when they are served large portions of food. At two series of lunches, researchers served 30 preschool-aged children an age-appropriate portion of an entrée or a portion that was twice as large. Each series consisted of one meal a week for four weeks; the series were divided by a two-week period of self-served portions. When the children were served the large entrée, they took bigger bites and ate more, even though most of them seemed unaware that the portion size had changed. However, when they were allowed to serve themselves, they ate 25 percent less of the entrée than when they were served the large portion size.

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