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Health Capsules: Bye-bye bedbugs

Bye-bye bedbugs

A woman who is immune to bedbug bites has enabled scientists to figure out what attracts the insects to human skin, and as a result, bedbug traps should be available sometime this year.

Vancouver biologist Regine Gries allowed bedbugs to feed on her skin so a team of scientists could find a way to bait bedbugs. After dozens of experiments, scientists were able to determine the combination of pheromones that bedbugs find attractive.

Now, researchers plan to market bait traps containing the compounds so bedbugs can be collected before taking to people’s beds – and their skin. People lacking Gries’ immunity to bedbugs experience severe itching and rashes from their bites.


Learn now, nap later

Contrary to popular belief, infants seem to learn best while they are sleepy.

Researchers in the U.K. and Germany tested the ability of more than 200 6-12-month-olds on their ability to recall newly learned skills. They compared learning retention rates of babies who napped for at least 30 minutes within four hours of learning to retention rates of babies who did not nap. The napping infants remembered what they learned, but the non-napping babies did not.

According to University of Sheffield researcher Dr. Jane Herbert, the results suggest that the ideal time for a baby to learn new information is immediately prior to sleep.


Timing is everything

Serving schoolchildren lunch after recess is a no-cost way to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume, researchers recently discovered.

“Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids. If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time,” said Joe Price, professor at Brigham Young University and lead author of a study published in Preventive Medicine.

For the study, researchers monitored the behaviors of students in first-sixth grade at seven schools. Three of the schools switched their schedules and sent kids to recess prior to lunch; kids at the other schools continued to eat lunch before recess. The researchers stood by cafeteria trashcans to see how many servings of fruits and vegetables were discarded and took note also of how many children ate at least a single serving of fruits or vegetables. In all, they measured nearly 23,000 data points.

Results showed that students who had recess before eating lunch consumed 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who played after eating. Among students who had recess before lunch, there was a 45 percent increase in the number of children eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables.


Whole grain goodness

Gobbling up whole grain foods seems to play a significant role in preventing death from cardiovascular disease, according to a report published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

At the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers examined data from two large studies: the Nurses’ Health Study of more than 74,000 nurses (1984-2010), and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of nearly 44,000 men (1986-2010). After looking at the association between whole grain consumption and risk of death, researchers determined that whole grain consumption was linked with lower overall mortality and fewer instances of cardiovascular disease. That data suggested that roughly every serving (28 grams per day) of whole grains was associated with 5 percent lower mortality or 9 percent lower cardiovascular disease mortality.

While eating whole grains did not show a reduction in deaths from cancer, researchers concluded that a whole grain-enriched diet “may confer benefits toward extended life expectancy.”


Sleep quality and e-readers

Reading from an e-reader before bedtime seems to have a detrimental effect on sleep quality, a recent study indicated.

In a two-week study supported by the National Institutes of Health, researchers had participants read for four hours before bedtime from iPads on some nights and for four hours from printed books on others. After each scenario, they looked at various sleep-related measures and determined that the type of light emitted by electronic devices disrupted participants’ circadian clocks, causing them to take nearly 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and leading to a significant reduction in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

“Our most surprising finding was that individuals using the e-reader would be more tired and take longer to become alert the next morning,” said Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of bio-behavioral health at Penn State University. “This has real consequences for daytime functioning, and these effects might be worse in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment we used.”


On the calendar

The Biggest Winner of St. Charles County Round 7 Kick-Off is from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 or 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 at St. Charles Community College, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville. Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital help participants reach their weight-loss goals in a 10-week contest. Membership is limited to St. Charles County residents aged 18 and older, and participants must be able to attend weekly weigh-ins at one of the partner sites offered throughout the county. To view official rules and the participant agreement, visit bjcstcharlescounty.org. For more information and to register, call 928-9355.

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