5 studies you may have missed
April 11th, 2014
11:46 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Germophobes beware: Coughs and sneezes create floating clouds
Journal of Fluid Mechanics

The next time you hear an "achoo!" nearby, shield yourself. A new study shows people blow out gas clouds when they sneeze or cough - and these clouds propel germs further than previously thought.

Scientists at MIT studied how coughs and sneezes move in slow motion using high-speed imaging, in addition to mathematical modeling techniques and simulations. They found that coughs and sneezes have two phases: A quick, jet-like propulsion of droplets, and then a "puff" in which the droplets are suspended in a gas cloud.

When the researchers analyzed the trajectory of the expelled particles, they found that relatively large droplets in the clouds - measuring 100 micrometers in diameter - moved five times further than previous studies had shown. The smaller ones, 10 micrometers across, traveled 200 times farther.

So stop the spread of disease by covering your coughs and sneezes.

Fathers' obesity may be related to children's autism
Journal: Pediatrics

As scientists continue to explore the potential causes of autism, a question has been raised about paternal obesity.

Researchers looked at a large sample of 92,909 children from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The children were between 4 and 13 years old.

Although a mother's weight was only weakly linked with autism in her child, an obese father was associated with a significant increase in risk. Children of obese fathers had a 0.27% likelihood of an autistic disorder, compared to 0.14% for children whose fathers were at a normal weight.

The general risk of an obese father having a child with autism is still small, study authors noted, but the association is worth further study.

"It would definitely be beneficial to replicate our analyses in population studies from other countries," lead researcher Dr. Pal Suren, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, told HealthDay News.

Read more from HealthDay News via WebMD

Exercise may help older women’s brains
British Journal of Sports Medicine

Mild cognitive impairment is a condition affecting memory and thinking that is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. We don't know how to prevent or cure MCI, but there is some indication that exercise may help.

A new study looked at 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who had probable mild cognitive impairment. The women were randomly assigned to aerobic exercise, resistance training, or balance and tone training (the control group) for 26 weeks. Researchers measured the volume of the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in memory, in participants before and after the interventions.

Those who had done aerobic exercise showed bigger hippocampal volume after the intervention, compared to the group that did balance and tone. Those who did resistance training did not show the benefit.

Strangely, those who had larger hippocampal volume also tended to score worse on a verbal learning test. This was a small study and more research is needed to explain the findings.

Read more from The Atlantic

Cells involved in touch identified
Journal: Nature

Scientists have uncovered how cells that lie under the surface of your skin allow you to perceive details and textures. These cells are called Merkel cells.

“These experiments are the first direct proof that Merkel cells can encode touch into neural signals that transmit information to the brain about the objects in the world around us,” researcher Ellen Lumpkin said in a statement.

The work could have implications for understanding conditions in which touch sensitivity is lost. Sensitivity also declines with normal aging; at the same time, Merkel cells start disappearing in people in their early 20s.

“It’s an exciting time in our field because there are still big questions to answer, and the tools of modern neuroscience give us a way to tackle them,” Lumpkin said.

Read more from Columbia University

Junk food may bring on laziness - in rats
Journal: Physiology & Behavior

Poor eating habits may not only expand your waistline, but also make you less motivated, a new study suggests.

Researchers fed some rats a low-fat diet that was high in simple sugars and refined flour, and others a healthier diet. All rats learned that they would be able to get a bit of sugar water as a reward for pressing a lever. The number of lever presses required to access to the reward increased during the experiment.

Eventually both sets of rats tired of this exercise, but junk-food rats gave up a lot sooner than the ones who had a healthy diet. Both groups seemed to have similar energy levels, so researchers believe there's something happening in the brains of the ones eating poorly to explain the behavior difference. More research is required to find out if that's true.

Note that this research was in rats, so we don't know how it will apply to humans. Still, lead author Aaron Blaisdell told the LA Times: "Rats are a great animal model for humans because there is so much overlap in the systems that regulate appetite and metabolism."

Read more from the LA Times

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. ser

    bless you.

    April 11, 2014 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lojack

    I think I need to stimulate my Merkel cells!

    April 11, 2014 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mark

    What did I miss? The article doesn't say how far they actually travel rather that they just travel further than thought?

    April 11, 2014 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tradedate

      I was thinking the same thing! Also, if no tissue was available, I was always taught to sneeze on the arm of my shirt, rather than into my hands. Less germs get spread to other surfaces and people that way.

      April 14, 2014 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
  4. svann

    Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Thats so rude.

    April 12, 2014 at 01:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Joe

    It's rude, thoughtless, stupid, low-class, vulgar.....ie basically today's society (or at least its direction) in a nutshell.

    April 12, 2014 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. barb'sbarb

    If you cannot sneeze or cough into your hands, turn your head and bring up your upper arm and sneeze into that. Do not spread your germs!!

    April 12, 2014 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. gstlab3

    someone if you would please tell my mom that just using a tissue while blowing and sneezing will not stop the sneaky mucus booger cloud?
    she wanders around the house and most anywhere blowing and sneezing into the tissues and she is apt to leave the used tissu on a table or counter top some place random and darn it., it is all pretty gross.

    April 12, 2014 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. gstlab3

    wash your hands after blowing boogers around into tissues and maybe you should also check your face and shirt while you're at it.
    boogers and other bodily fluids are gross

    April 12, 2014 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. gstlab3

    I forgot the most important vector for the common plauges like the common cold and the flu.,
    children little booger faced children need to be kept in special zones away from the people who do not have children because every year the same thing happens when schools starts and stops.,
    new colds and other bogus health stuff goes on and it is because children are not clean and or are not kept clean enought to stop the spread of boogers full of colds and flu bugs and stomache bugs and lord knows what else.

    April 12, 2014 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JGN

      So you are under the misconception that cleanliness has anything to do with virus spread? How quaint. Do you also go about holding a posy of flowers under your nose to prevent the plague?
      One has to assume you were a child once and got the childhood viruses which helped build your immune system, so why are you being such a big girl's blouse about living with other children's need to do the same? It's called life.

      April 14, 2014 at 02:11 | Report abuse |
  10. are122

    When I sneeze I often give off two gas clouds. One you can see and one you can smell. I think the one you can smell goes further.

    April 12, 2014 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • That's scary

      "One you can see"?!!

      April 14, 2014 at 07:37 | Report abuse |
  11. JakeF

    How far do sneezes actually travel?

    The article seems to have missed that minor point.

    April 13, 2014 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. edlf2014

    The more germs you can ward off the better you will be able to ward off. Those who are most concerned about their health are the ones who have the more health problems. Or so I believe. I have never been concerned with my health, eat the wrong foods, smoke, etc., and have not had a sick day for the past 30+ years.

    April 16, 2014 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
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