Really?

Really?
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First Published: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 10 52 AM IST

Updated: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 10 52 AM IST
THE CLAIM
Thumb-sucking can lead to buck teeth
Most parents cringe at the sight of children sucking their thumbs. Bacteria and germs, of course, are one issue. But another concern is the time-worn belief that thumb-sucking can lead to the development of buck teeth, a notion that despite its reputation as an old wives’ tale is no exaggeration.
About 80% of infants and children suck their thumbs. The behaviour is considered normal during the first four years of life, driven by a natural desire that was at some point probably essential to survival. But it starts to cause problems when continued past a certain age.
That point, according to the American Dental Association, is roughly age 6, when a child’s permanent teeth begin to grow in. The problem appears at first as a slight misalignment of the teeth, called a malocclusion, that goes away if the habit is stopped. But over time, in some people, the thumb eventually pushes the top teeth out, at which point only an orthodontist can make a difference.
David Horwitz, a paediatrician at the New York University School of Medicine, says children at risk of developing a thumb-sucking habit that reaches that stage can often be spotted early. “There are babies where every time you do an ultrasound on the mother, they seem to be sucking their thumbs,” Dr Horwitz says. “Some babies are definitely sucking their thumbs from the time they are born, and, I tell you, those babies are destined to be long-time thumb-suckers.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Thumb-sucking, although normal behaviour, can lead to buck teeth if continued past age 6.
THE CLAIM
Quinine is effective in easing leg cramps
Leg cramps are especially jarring at night, when they can literally mean a rude awakening. They can strike suddenly, and they tend to become more common with age. A popular remedy is quinine. A large analysis in the ‘British Medical Journal’ combined data from several studies and found that people who regularly suffered nocturnal leg cramps experienced significantly fewer symptoms after taking quinine than those who had a placebo.
But there are a couple of problems with this. Even if quinine prevents leg cramps, most types of tonic contain less than 1% of the amount found in a typical therapeutic dose.
Another problem, according to medical reports, is that quinine causes allergic reactions, fever and even death in some. Since 2007, the (US) Food and Drug Administration has recommended that it be prescribed only for the prevention and treatment of malaria.
Better to rely instead on stretching exercises to flex the legs before bedtime, according to the Mayo Clinic, which also recommends drinking plenty of fluids and eating foods high in potassium.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some studies suggest quinine can ease leg cramps, but the side effects may outweigh any benefits.
THE CLAIM
Mayonnaise can increase the risk of food poisoning
This is the time of year when food poisoning typically spikes, and one popular picnic ingredient that always attracts suspicion is mayonnaise.
But studies cast doubt on that. Most commercial brands of mayonnaise contain vinegar and other ingredients that make them acidic—and therefore very likely to protect against spoilage. When problems occur, they usually result from other contaminated or low-acid ingredients (such as chicken and seafood), improper storage and handling, or homemade versions that contain unpasteurized eggs.
One prominent study published in the ‘Journal of Food Protection’ found, for example, that in the presence of commercial mayonnaise, the growth of salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria in contaminated chicken and ham salad either slowed or stopped altogether. As the amount of mayonnaise increased, the rate of growth decreased. When temperatures rose to those of a hot summer day, the growth increased, but not as much as in samples that did not contain mayonnaise.
For backyard chefs, some high-risk foods in summer are raw shellfish, bulk ground beef (health officials say a single hamburger can contain meat from hundreds of animals) and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite its reputation, mayonnaise can reduce food spoilage.
ANAHAD O’CONNOR ©2008/The New York Times
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First Published: Tue, Aug 12 2008. 10 52 AM IST