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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(3):305

Does a chocolate bar a day keep the cardiologist away? Perhaps, which would mean that flunking out may have been a good thing for defiant chocolate lovers participating in a trial that studied the effects of aspirin on heart disease. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University asked participants to abstain from chocolate for 24 to 48 hours before starting the study, but 139 of the 1,200 enrolled patients couldn't resist eating a chocolate chip cookie or two—or, in one instance, one gallon of chocolate ice cream in a single sitting—so they were removed from the study. However, when researchers studied the blood of those who had eaten chocolate, they noted that it was slower to clot than the blood of volunteers who had resisted chocolate, and participants also had lower levels of thromboxane, a platelet waste product. Furthermore, they found that a chemical in cocoa beans reduces platelet clumping via a biochemical effect similar to that of aspirin. (, November 14, 2006)

According to a study published in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, hair may tell more about a person's eating habits than previously thought. Researchers from Brigham Young University compared five strands of hair from patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa with hair from patients in a control group. By analyzing the carbon and nitrogen contained in the strands, they could accurately diagnose patients with eating disorders 80 percent of the time. Although the hair analysis could only detect the presence of an eating disorder and not the exact disorder, the authors note that, with more research, it may be possible to distinguish between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa in future tests. (Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom, November 30, 2006)

Would you drink camel's milk to lose weight? According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, camel's milk may be a healthier alternative to cow's milk. Although slightly saltier than cow's milk, camel's milk has three times more vitamin C and is rich in iron, vitamin B, and unsaturated fatty acids. It also may help reduce blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes and is being marketed as a health food in several African countries and to tourists visiting historic landmarks in India. Public response to ice cream made from camel's milk, which comes in flavors such as saffron-pistachio and strawberry-vanilla, has been encouraging. (Reuters Health, November 13, 2006)

Who knew Mom was right? Kissing a boo-boo can make it better, proposes a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. While studying the effects of sialorphin peptide in rats, which inhibits the perception of pain, researchers discovered opiorphin, a similar, naturally occurring pain-killer in human saliva. Opiorphin seems to prolong the body's own defenses against pain by preventing breakdown of chemicals called enkephalins, which activate opiate receptors that block pain signals from reaching the brain. Opiorphin appears to be as effective as morphine and may help patients avoid some of the side effects of synthetic pain relievers, such as addiction and tolerance with prolonged use. (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, [published online] November 13, 2006)

It's easier to convince elementary school students to do their homework than to wash their hands with soap, according to results of a survey conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation International. Nearly all of the teachers surveyed said they educate their students on the merits of handwashing. However, 33 percent of teachers report that their students forget to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating, don't wash up after touching or playing with something dirty, fail to wash their hands properly, and don't wash their hands after gym class. Eighty percent of teachers surveyed said they use sanitizing hand gel to help students eliminate germs, and 86 percent said that they clean their classrooms themselves. However, these teachers may be losing the battle; according to the survey, children are becoming “germier” as they grow up: 39 percent of fourth- and fifth-grade teachers and 34 percent of second- and third-grade teachers report that their students have bad handwashing habits compared with only 29 percent of kindergarten and first-grade teachers. (National Sanitation Foundation International news release, November 16, 2006)

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