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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(1):25

An apple a day — and a year or two of higher education — keeps the doctor away. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that college graduates have less calcium buildup in their coronary arteries. According to researchers, high school dropouts are four times more likely than persons with advanced degrees to have significant calcium buildup, and persons with the highest degrees have the cleanest arteries. Of 2,913 participants in the study, 128 did not graduate from high school, 498 were high school graduates, 902 had some college education, 764 were college graduates, and 621 had postgraduate degrees. Risk factors for poor health such as hypertension, smoking rates, and waist circumference were substantially higher among persons with the least amount of education, and these risk factors increased with age. Increased symptom recognition, health literacy, access to treatment, and adherence to medical advice among persons with higher education also may help reduce the risk of coronary artery calcium buildup. (JAMA, April 19, 2006)

The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” has never been less true, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Authors evaluated 92 overweight children eight to 18 years of age and found that overweight and slightly overweight children who were bullied on the playground and in gym classes had more trouble losing weight. The authors also found that bullying leads directly to depression, loneliness, and anxiety toward physical activity, making it more likely that these children will become obese adults. Because negative attitudes toward exercise have lasting effects, the authors recommend that physicians and parents pay particular attention to the link between bullying and increasing rates of obesity. (J Pediatr Psychol, April 6, 2006)

Beans may not be the musical fruit for much longer, according to a study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Black beans are vital to persons living in developing countries as a source of nutrients, but the authors say that consumption is restricted because of the flatulence it produces. However, fermenting the beans with natural lactic acid reduces the amount of raffinose, a gas-producing compound, by about 89 percent and soluble fiber by 63 percent. When the authors cooked the fermented beans, they found an increase in digestibility and a decrease in trypsin inhibitors and tannins. The result is a more functional and nutritious black bean. (J Sci Food Agric, May 2006)

Is lawn care hazardous to your health? Results of a study from Annals of Emergency Medicine suggest that it can be, especially for older adults and children who are younger than 15 years. The incidence of mower-related injuries has increased over the past nine years, with 80,539 such injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments in 2004. According to the authors, many of these trips to the emergency department are preventable. The most common injuries are caused by flying debris from under the lawnmower hitting an eye or other body part; such injuries could be avoided with the use of protective apparel. Other mower-related injuries that tend to occur in older adults include falling on slippery surfaces and nonspecific pain after operating a mower. In children, burns from hot surfaces and running over an extremity are relatively common. The authors recommend that physicians educate parents about lawnmower safety, including counseling parents not to let children ride on or play near a mower in use. (Ann Emerg Med, June 2006)

Can stress trigger drug abuse and binge eating? According to a study from the online journal BMC Biology, stress hormones might just affect how much we value a reward, increasing our desire for something pleasurable without actually increasing our enjoyment. Researchers injected the stress hormone corticotropin-releasing factor — which is elicited by natural rewards or incentive cues — into rats trained to press a lever and receive a dose of sugar after hearing a particular tone. The injected rats worked harder at pressing the lever when they heard the tone than rats with low levels of stress hormones. Based on the study results, the researchers concluded that stress can trigger binge eating, drug abuse relapse, or other excessive pursuits of rewards. (BMC Biol, April 13, 2006)

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Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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