Health Updates 13 April 2012

  • Even toddlers succumb to peer pressure, study says: Toddlers are more likely to pick up behavior if they see most other toddlers doing it, a new study shows.  Researchers found that 2-year-olds were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by three other toddlers than if they say an action repeated by just one other toddler….’I think few people would have expected to find that 2-year-olds are already influenced by the majority,’ study author Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics in Germany and the Netherlands.  ‘Parents and teachers should be aware of these dynamics in children’s peer interactions,’ Haun said in a journal news release.  The study also found that chimpanzees tend to follow the crowd, but orangutans do not.  This suggests that humans and chimps have shared strategies for social learning, the researchers said.  While parents may be dismayed to learn that their toddlers are already sensitive to peer pressure, this type of behavior has advantages in terms of evolution.  ‘The tendency to acquire the behaviors of the majority has been posited as key to the transmission of relatively safe, reliable and productive behavioral strategies,’ Haun noted.” (HealthDay)
  • 48% of chicken in small sample has E. coli: “A recent test of packaged raw chicken products bought at grocery stores across the country found that roughly half of them were contaminated with the bacteria E. coli.  E. coli, which the study said was an indicator of fecal contamination, was found in 48 percent of 120 chicken products bought in 10 major cities by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that advocates a vegetarian diet among other things.  The study results were released Wednesday.  ‘Most consumers do not realize that feces are in the chicken products they purchase,’ said Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president of the group.  ‘Food labels discuss contamination as if it is simply the presence of bacteria, but people need to know that it means much more than that’.  Food safety specialists said the findings were a tempest in a chicken coop, particularly because the test was so small and the E. coli found was not a kind that threatened public health.  ‘What’s surprising to me is that they didn’t find more,’ said Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.  ‘Poop gets into your food, and not just into meat — produce is grown in soil fertilized with manure, and there’s E. coli in that, too.’  The findings are not peer-reviewed, and just how the contamination levels became elevated is not certain.  One side contends that the study’s findings are simply not supported  by any science or facts; the other side, including Dr. Barnard, who is vegan, argues that public health and safety might be at risk. (NY Times)
  • Young docs not optimistic about future: “Nearly 60% of physicians ages 40 and younger don’t hold out much hope for American healthcare, according to results of on online survey released by the Physicians’ Foundation.  Among the 500 respondents, nearly a third (31%) said they were ‘highly pessimistic’ about the future of the US healthcare system.  Another 26% characterized themselves as ‘somewhat pessimistic’.  Only one in five sees a brighter side — just 4% said they were ‘highly optimistic’, and 18% claimed to be ‘somewhat’ optimistic….In addition to concerns about the ACA, burdensome regulations and malpractice insurance premiums were also mentioned by respondents as reasons for pessimism, along with declining reimbursement and increasing costs.  ‘The level of pessimism among young doctors today is troubling and reinforces the notion that physicians need to be key participants in health policy discussions,’ said Lou Goodman, PhD, president of the Physicians’ Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association, in a press release.”  Young doctors just starting out face massive student debt and little control over their career trajectories, combined with real uncertainty about the effects of healthcare reform and regulation on their practices. (Joyce Frieden, MedPage Today)
  • Over-the-counter bug bite remedies don’t work: report “A new report says there is little evidence that over-the-counter insect bite remedies actually work.  In addition, most reactions to insect bites are mild and don’t require any treatment, according to the evidence review in the April issues of the British journal Drug and Therapeutics BulletinWhen insects such as mosquitoes bite a person, the saliva they inject can cause a reaction.  In a few cases, this can lead to infection, an eczema flare-up or even anaphylactic shock.  But most insect bites cause only a mild reaction involving itching, pain and swelling, as well as secondary problems caused by scratching the bite.  Many over-the-counter products are used to treat these issues.  Antihistamines are widely recommended to ease insect-bite-related itching, but there’s no proof that this is effective. That’s also the case for steroid creams and tablets to treat itching and inflammation caused by insect bites.  Creams that contain painkillers, anesthetics, antihistamines or antiseptics are ‘only marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitization,’ according to the review.  There is some evidence to suggest that diluted ammonium solution may help relieve itching or burning, but there is little evidence that antiseptics or astringents are effective…’.” Most often, treatments for simple insect bites are not needed: the symptoms are self-limiting.  (

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