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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(3):382

The trauma experienced by victims of stalking is often underestimated, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Authors of the study sent 3,700 surveys to men and women living in Victoria, Australia. Of the 1,844 people who completed and returned the survey, 196 had experienced a brief form of harassment that lasted two weeks or less, and 236 said they had been stalked for months. Those respondents were then compared with 432 participants of similar backgrounds who had never experienced stalking or harassment. The degree of mental health problems among the stalking victims proved to be much higher than among those who had not been stalked. Approximately one third of stalking victims were still distressed a year after the stalking ended, and 10 percent had contemplated suicide. (Br J Psychiatry, November 2005)

A new form of lie detector test that uses the stomach to determine the truth may be on the way. The results of a study presented at the 70th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology show that although lying and telling the truth can each cause the heart to react, only lying will change the contractions of the stomach. The authors of the study theorized that the gastrointestinal tract is responsive to psychological stress because of the communication between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. In the study, researchers measured the heart and stomach contractions of 16 healthy volunteers. They found that lying caused a considerable reduction in the percentage of normal gastric slow waves. They concluded that the addition of electrogastrogram recordings to a standard electrocardiographic polygraph test could increase the accuracy of existing lie detectors. (American College of Gastroenterology news release, October 31, 2005)

Are doors and bicycles more dangerous to children than power saws? According to a study published in Pediatrics, most amputations in young children occur after a hand is caught in a door; this usually results in the partial loss of a finger but requires no hospital stay. Researchers studied hospital records dating from 1990 to 2002. In that 12-year period, 111,600 children suffered from injuries that resulted in amputation. The records showed that bicycle-related accidents caused the most amputations in school-age children, and injuries became more severe as the children reached adolescence. The study authors advise the use of safeguards such as doorstops, automatic stop mechanisms on power saws, and wearing closed-toe shoes while biking to help deter amputation injuries. (Pediatrics, November 2005)

The industrial businesses in one North Carolina county may be making the residents psychologically sick. According to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the discharge of hydrogen sulfide and other airborne chemicals by the local paper mill and other industrial businesses could be the reason behind a suicide rate in Haywood County that is, in some neighborhoods, three times the state average. According to the study authors, the local mill uses Bleach Filtrate Recycle to help remove chlorine and other toxins from the waste that is released into a nearby river. The authors think that by trying to keep the river clean, the mill may be polluting the air, and they say that more in-depth studies are needed to explore this possibility. Previous studies have shown that occupational exposure to hydrogen sulfide, one of the chemicals released by the mill, can cause nervousness, mania, dementia, and violence. (UNC news release, November 7, 2005)

Scientists have discovered a sixth taste bud – for fat. Authors of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation hypothesized that people may crave fried foods because their tongues have a taste bud for fat. Researchers tested rats with normal taste buds and those with a removed CD36 receptor, which is normally found in other tissues that involve fat storage. The researchers determined that normal rodents showed an inclination for fatty foods, whereas the rodents without the CD36 receptor did not. Researchers also discovered that when they coated the rodents’ tongues with a fatty fluid, the normal rats’ digestive systems produced a fat-processing substance. The rats without CD36 receptors did not react to the fatty fluid at all. The authors say that they do not know if this taste bud for fat exists in humans, but if it does, it could explain why some people crave certain foods and possibly why some people are more susceptible to weight gain. (J Clin Invest, November 1, 2005)

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