vital signs

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What's cooking?

Hygiene in the kitchen leaves much to be desired, say researchers from Westminster University. Their study, reported in The Doctors' Post, found that after one day's normal use the average re-usable dishcloth contained more than 1 million bacteria, most of it flakes of human skin and uncooked or contaminated food. A recent NOP survey, meanwhile, showed that 23 per cent of the population never clean their oven, 14 per cent never clean their fridge and 3 per cent never clean the work surface.

Healthy touch

Giving the baby a massage reduces stress in parents as well as offspring, according to a review of studies carried out at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami. The studies show that massage helps babies to sleep, improves their responsiveness, and makes them happier. Less well-known is the finding that baby massage can improve the bond between father and child, and result in less anxiety and fewer depressive symptoms among parents.

Diabetic diet

Many women with insulin-dependent diabetes manipulate insulin treatment to lose weight, according to researchers from City University, London. Their study of 39 women with the disorder, reported in Doctor, revealed that 46.2 per cent suffered from eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa. They achieved weight loss by reducing the amount of insulin injected or by skipping doses.

Short depression

Young girls who suffer undue anxiety may grow up to be 5cm shorter on average than their happier contemporaries, according to psychiatrists at Columbia University, New York. Earlier studies have suggested that anxiety depresses levels of growth hormone in the body. Writing in the latest issue of Pediatrics, the researchers point out that boys do not appear to be affected the same way, possibly because they suffer fewer emotional disorders than girls.

Beware vitamin A

Women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy should not take multivitamin supplements without medical advice because of the danger of excess vitamin A, which has been linked to birth defects, warns the latest issue of the British Medical Journal. It advises that pregnant women should take only one supplement - 0.4mg daily of folic acid, which reduces the risk of neural tube and possibly other birth defects.

Epidural relief

Epidural injections to treat severe backache are safe in the vast majority of cases (Caught in a web of spinal pain, 16 July). Serious reactions to the injection are rare.

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