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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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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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