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Fist Bumps Could be Good for Our Health

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It all started in the 1970s (we think), when NBA Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter balled up his fist and bumped it against a teammate's closed fist. Or maybe it was the Wonder Twins, who kissed fists and shouted “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” Soon, athletes and bros alike adopted the fist bump as the preferred greeting. In 2008, it received new prominence when Barack Obama and his wife fist-bumped as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. The Washington Post called it “the fist bump heard ’round the world.”

No matter the origin, fist bumps might actually be good for our health. A recent study finds that bumping fists rather than shaking hands in hospitals reduces the spread of bacteria.

Researchers, led by plastic surgeon Tom McClellan, asked people who had washed hands to either shake hands or bump fists. After the contact, the researchers took swabs of the subjects’ hands and cultured the samples to see how much bacteria were thriving on the hands. After 20 handshakes, people had more bacteria populating their hands than those who fist-bumped 20 times. A shake exposed three times as much skin as a bump and lasted 2.7 times longer.

“[Bumping] may lead to decreased transmission of bacteria and improved health and safety of patients and healthcare workers alike," McClellan and his colleagues wrote in their paper in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

People spread germs via handshake because they fail to clean their hands properly. According to a study in The Journal of Environmental Health, only 5 percent of people wash their hands for 15 seconds or longer. But 15 seconds is not enough—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wash their hands for 20 seconds to reduce the spread of illness. This improper handwashing means that 80 percent of people carry germs on their hands. When one improperly cleaned hand grasps another in a welcoming handshake, the two swap germs that can cause everything from a cold to MRSA to pneumonia to E. coli. While McClellan’s study focused solely on bacteria, he plans on investigating how fist bumps can impact the spread of viruses.

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Sleeping In on Weekends May Help You Catch Up on Sleep After All
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Weekend mornings are a precious time for nine-to-fivers. If you spend your weekdays staying up long past reasonable bedtime hours and waking up with the Sun, you may be tempted to sleep past noon every day off you get. Sleeping in feels great, and now a new study from sleep scientists at Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute finds that it may also be an effective way to make up for the sleep you missed during the week, contradicting previously held beliefs on the matter.

According to most sleep researchers, the only way to catch up on sleep debt is to adjust your sleeping patterns gradually over time—in other words, cramming in all the sleep you missed last week into a night or two won't cut it. A team of scientists reexamined this theory for their study published in the Journal of Sleep Research [PDF]. Researchers looked at the sleep data from about 44,000 Swedish adults collected in 1997 and followed up with the participants 13 years later. Accounting for factors like age, gender, and education, they report that adults who consistently slept for five hours or fewer throughout the week were more likely to have died after those 13 years than subjects who slept for six or seven hours, seven days a week. Oversleeping every day of the week also put participants at a greater risk of mortality.

But there's good news for people who do all their sleeping in on the weekend—subjects who under-slept five days and slept more during the last two days of the week had no greater risk of death than the people who got healthy amounts of sleep every night of the week. The results call into question past sleep studies that have only looked at sleep patterns during the week, ignoring weekend behaviors. The new study, though, focuses just on the sleeping habits of people at a specific point in time. To confirm what these results suggest, more long-term studies will need to be conducted.

Earlier mortality isn't the only health risk associated with unsatisfactory sleep habits: Getting too little or poor-quality sleep can mess with your memory, appetite, and cognitive and motor performance. That means finding time to get a good night's sleep, no matter the day of the week (if you're lucky enough to have the option), is still the healthiest course of action.

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People With Type A Blood Are More Prone to Severe Diarrhea
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Bad news for people with type A blood who also love to eat at buffets: A new study spotted by Science News reveals that people with this particular blood type have a significantly higher risk of contracting severe diarrhea from a common bacterial pathogen.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that a protein secreted by a strain of Escherichia coli latches onto sugar molecules that are only found within the blood cells and intestinal lining of people with type A blood.

For the study, 106 healthy volunteers drank water that contained a strain of the bacterium E. coli—one of the major causes of infectious diarrhea around the world. Only 56 percent of volunteers with blood types O and B contracted moderate to severe diarrhea, but 81 percent of volunteers with blood types A or AB fell ill. All participants were later given antibiotics.

Researchers say these findings, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could aid the development of an effective vaccine. Developing parts of the world are particularly susceptible to E. coli contamination, which causes millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, researchers note.

As anyone who has ever had "Delhi belly" can attest, this is also a concern for people who travel to developing regions. The main causes of E. coli infection are contaminated food and water, so it's wise to regularly wash your hands and avoid eating raw produce and undercooked beef while traveling.

[h/t Science News]

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