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Am Fam Physician. 2006;74(11):1828

Would you like latex with that? A study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says that consumers may get more than they bargained for when it comes to food packaging and latex. Researchers analyzed packaging from 21 different foods—including fruits, vegetables, ice cream, meat, cheese, pastries, and sweets—and found that one third of the materials contained one or more latex allergens. Ice cream wrappers had the highest levels, and in three other samples, low levels of latex allergens were transferred to the food. Notably, one brand of chocolate cookies contained 20 times the amount of latex that could possibly trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive persons. (J Sci Food Agri, September 2006)

Findings from a study in the Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal suggest that teasing may predict behavior problems in children who have cleft lip and palate. The study included 273 children and young adults eight to 21 years of age, 160 of whom had cleft lip and palate. The remaining 113 study participants had no cleft lip and palate and served as a control group. Participants with cleft lip and palate had more behavior problems, more symptoms of depression, were less happy with their facial appearance and speech, and were teased or bullied more often than those in the control group. However, there were no significant differences in the levels of self-esteem or anxiety between the groups. Having been teased, though, signified poor psychosocial functioning. Therefore, the authors stress that psychological assessment focused on the effects of teasing should be an integral part of care for children and adolescents with any developmental problems. (Cleft Palate Craniofac J, September 2006)

If your neighbor can hear the music coming out of your headphones while you’re wearing them, the volume is probably too loud. A press release from the U.K.’s Royal National Institute for Deaf People reports that 58 percent of people 16 to 30 years of age are unaware that audio products requiring earphones, such as MP3 players, carry risks to their hearing. Another 79 percent have never seen the warnings printed on the packaging. These data are alarming because the more than 6.3 million users of MP3 players may be listening to music at levels that can cause hearing loss with prolonged use. Users whose music can be heard two to three feet away should turn the volume down a notch. And for those who hear a ringing or buzzing in their ears after wearing an audio player, the institute suggests a five-minute rest period after every hour of listening to music. (Royal National Institute for Deaf People press release, September 4, 2006)

Licorice may not be all it’s roped up to be, suggests a study in Anesthesiology. Researchers asked 601 patients living in Hong Kong and who were undergoing major elective surgery if they had taken traditional Chinese herbal medicines within two weeks of surgery. They found that 483 patients had taken self-prescribed traditional Chinese herbal medicines, including licorice, and another 47 patients had taken traditional Chinese herbal medicines prescribed by someone other than themselves. Patients who had taken the herbal medicine two weeks before their surgical procedure were more likely to have a perioperative complication, such as prolonged bleeding, an irregular heartbeat, or low levels of potassium, compared with patients who had not taken any herbal medicines. The authors stress that most herbal teas and over-the-counter herbal soups are safe. (Anesthesiology, September 2006)

For school-age girls, keeping obesity at bay may not be as easy as increasing physical education classes, reports a study in Education Next. In 2005, legislatures in 44 states required schools to reform or increase the time students spend in physical education classes. However, the authors of the study suggest that the increased exercise in these classes actually decreases the number of days during the week that girls will exercise outside of school. They also found no association between weight loss or the likelihood of obesity and increased time in physical education classes. Furthermore, 100 extra minutes of physical education decreased the amount of time adolescent girls spent doing light activity by almost one day a week. For boys, however, every 200 minutes of extra physical education equated to another 7.6 minutes a week actually exercising or playing sports in gym class. (Education Next, Fall 2006)

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Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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