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Health Capsules: Healthier than a handshake

A fist bump is healthier than a handshake or a high-five, a new study revealed.

A fist bump is healthier than a handshake or a high-five, a new study revealed.

Healthier than a handshake

When it comes to healthy greetings, fist bumps beat high-fives and handshakes hands-down, according to a study published in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Researchers in the United Kingdom had a greeter immerse a sterile-gloved hand into a container of germs. When the glove dried, the greeter exchanged a handshake, high-five or fist bump with a sterile-gloved recipient for varying lengths of time and at varying intensities of contact.

Next, researchers counted the bacteria transferred to the recipient and found that compared to the high-five, handshakes transferred almost twice as many bacteria. What’s more, significantly fewer bacteria were transferred during the fist bumps than during the high-fives. In all three forms of greeting, longer and stronger contact resulted in increased passing of germs.

“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” David Whitworth, corresponding study author, said. “It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake; however, for the sake of improving public health, we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.”

Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association called for a ban on handshakes in hospitals in an effort to reduce the spread of potentially harmful germs from healthcare providers’ hands to patients.


Sneaky salt

Most Americans consume more than twice the recommended daily amount of sodium, and nearly all have no idea how much salt they are eating.

In an American Heart Association survey of 1,000 people, 97 percent of respondents were unable to correctly estimate their daily sodium intake, with those who underestimated their salt consumption off by roughly 1,000 milligrams.

The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 milligrams of salt a day for a healthy heart. Too much sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other serious health problems.

To underscore the importance of watching sodium intake, the American Heart Association has launched “I Love You Salt, But You’re Breaking My Heart,” an awareness campaign that includes a new website – heart.org/sodium – with an online pledge to reduce sodium consumption, a video illustrating how salt “sneaks” into foods, a blog, a sodium quiz, educational articles and links to lower-sodium recipes.

One reason people are unaware of their sodium intake is that 75 percent of it comes not from the salt shaker but rather from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods.

“It’s challenging for Americans to stick to sodium intake recommendations because most of the sodium we eat in this country is added to our food before we buy it,” said Lori Jones, a registered dietician. “In order to really make a difference in the health of all Americans, we must reduce the sodium in the food supply through the support of food manufacturers, food processors and the restaurant industry.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Heart Association, Jones suggested consumers compare product labels and choose the product with less sodium; limit consumption of processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods; and season food with herbs, spices, citrus juice or vinegars instead of salt.


Misleading menus

Even people with the best intentions of making healthy food choices may be misled when dining out, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab researchers discovered.

A Cornell study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that menu design and food descriptions have a strong influence on what people order at restaurants.

For the study, researchers analyzed menus from more than 200 restaurants and looked at menu choices made by more than 300 restaurant patrons. They found people were more likely to order food items that were printed in bold or colored print, highlighted or placed in a text box than to order foods listed in regular print.

Menu items were more likely to sell better also – and people were willing to pay more for them – if they were given descriptive names. For example, researchers said, changing an item’s name from “seafood filet” to “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet” or from “red beans and rice” to “Cajun Red Beans and Rice” boosted sales by more than 25 percent and resulted in the foods being rated as better tasting, even though the recipe was the same.

According to Brian Wansink, lead author of the study, items highlighted on menus usually are the least healthy, and the best way to determine healthy choices is to ask.

“Just ask your server,” Wansink said. “Ask, ‘What are your two or three lighter entrees that get the most compliments?’ or, ‘What’s the best thing on the menu if a person wants a light dinner?’”

For more tips from Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of more than 200 academic articles and books about eating behavior, visit slimbydesign.org.  The site contains information on choosing better foods at restaurants as well as at home, at the grocery store, at work and in the school lunchroom.


Moderate drinking and A-fib

A daily serving of wine or hard liquor may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation (A-fib), but drinking beer in moderation does not seem to have the same associated risk.

Like previous research, a new prospective study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked high alcohol consumption (three or more drinks a day) and binge drinking with increased risk of A-fib – rapid heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure and dementia. In addition, the study was the first to link moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one to three drinks a day, with A-fib.

For the study, researchers in Sweden had about 79,000 adults aged 45-83 complete a detailed questionnaire about their food and alcohol consumption and followed them for as long as 12 years. An analysis revealed an association between drinking moderate amounts of wine and liquor and an increased risk of A-fib, with the risk increasing 8 percent with each additional drink per day.

Moderate drinking and even binge drinking of beer was not shown to produce a similar A-fib risk. While researchers had no explanation for that finding, lead author Susanna C. Larsson offered a hypothesis.

“It is likely that beer is consumed more regularly during the week, whereas wine and liquor is more often consumed during weekends only,” Larsson said. “Adverse effects of alcohol on atrial fibrillation risk may be less pronounced if alcohol consumption is spread out over the week compared with consumption of larger amounts of alcohol during a few days per week.”

The American Academy of Cardiology noted that while the study identified an association, it does not necessarily mean moderate alcohol consumption is a direct cause of A-fib, and there could be other reasons A-fib is more common among those who drink.


One teaspoon of pure caffeine is the equivalent of the amount of caffeine in about 25 cups of coffee, FDA officials said in a consumer advisory

One teaspoon of pure caffeine is the equivalent of the amount of caffeine in about 25 cups of coffee, FDA officials said in a consumer advisory

Pure caffeine warning

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about powdered pure caffeine.

According to the FDA, at least one teenager has died from using powdered pure caffeine, which is being sold online to consumers and is packaged in bulk bags.

“These products are essentially 100 percent caffeine,” the FDA stated in an advisory dated July 21. “A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee.

“Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should be aware that these products may be attractive to young people.”

According to the FDA, caffeine overdose typically results in symptoms that are more severe than those experienced from drinking too much of a caffeinated beverage. Anyone experiencing rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, stupor or disorientation after consuming powdered pure caffeine should immediately stop using the product and seek medical help.


On the calendar

“Stress Management for Tweens” is from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Aug. 9 at St. Luke’s Hospital, 232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. The workshop teaches better understanding of stress as well as several coping techniques and relaxation strategies. Parents are included in the last hour of the workshop, which is offered free of charge. Registration is required and should be made using the child’s name. Call (314) 542-4848, or visit stlukes-stl.com.

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Missouri Baptist Medical Center presents “Varicose Veins: Not Just a Cosmetic Concern,” a lecture, luncheon and discussion, from 11 a.m.-noon on Monday, Aug. 11 at Longview Farm House, 13525 Clayton Road in Town & Country. Dr. Ricardo Rao, a vascular surgeon, explains the causes of and treatments for varicose veins. Admission is free, and registration is required. Call (314) 996-5433.

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“Supporting the Caregiver,” part of a series of monthly classes for those caring for a loved one, is from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 12634 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur. The class covers coping techniques and resources for caregivers and signs and risks of compassion fatigue (caregiver burnout). Additional classes include “Homecare Choices and How to Find Assistance at Home” (Sept. 2), “Practical Tips for Day-to-Day Homecare” (Oct. 7), “Massage and Music Therapy” (Nov. 4) and “Legal Matters and Goals of Care” (Dec. 9). Classes run from 1-2 p.m. and are followed by a half-hour question-and-answer session. Admission is free, and registration is not required. For more information, visit barnesjewishwestcounty.org/caregiverclass, or call (314) 542-9378.

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Missouri Baptist Medical Center presents “On the Move: Learn About Reducing Pain in Your Hips and Knees” from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, 1335 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Drs. Richard Johnston and Ryan Pitts, orthopedic surgeons, discuss what can be done to keep joints healthy and reduce joint pain and cover the latest surgical procedures in joint replacement surgery. For more information or to register, call (314) 996-5433.

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“Hypnosis for Weight Management” is from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at St. Luke’s Hospital, 232 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. A licensed professional counselor and board-certified clinical hypnotherapist facilitates the group experience for those seeking success with weight loss and weight management. The program is free, but registration is required. For more information or to register, call (314) 542-4848, or visit stlukes-stl.com.

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“Joint Pain” is at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at Des Peres Hospital, 2345 Dougherty Ferry Road. A physician explains treatment options and surgery techniques for addressing joint pain. Admission is free. To register, visit despereshospital.com, or call (314) 966-9100.


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