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Scientists Identify Cheap, Easy Way for Runners to Prevent Blisters

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For all the advances in science and technology made in the last century, people often find themselves thwarted by the simplest of problems. There’s still no cure for the common cold, for example. Our conditioner always seems to run out before our shampoo. And we still have no scientifically proven way to avoid blisters. Well, we can cross that last one off the list, at least. A study published today in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine reports a simple, cheap method for blister prevention—and it’s available in any drugstore.

Grant Lipman is an emergency medicine doctor working with some of the blister-iest feet in the world: those of runners. "What I kept hearing was, 'Doctor, I'd be doing so well, if only for my feet,'" Lipman said in a press statement. "Their feet were getting decimated."

Military doctors told him that blisters were keeping their patients from completing basic training. The angry sores that form from repeated pressure and friction, and the infections they caused, were hobbling our armed forces.

"People have been doing studies on blister prevention for 30 or 40 years and never found anything easy that works," Lipman said. "I wanted to look at this critically."

So he and a team of his colleagues in emergency and sports medicine put their heads together and decided to test one method that patients had mentioned again and again: paper tape. Paper tape, also known as surgical tape, is a mildly sticky adhesive tape used in hospitals to cover wounds. A roll of paper tape will run you less than a dollar at your local drug store, and anyone can apply it.

Lipman decided to put the tape to the ultimate test: actual ultramarathons. These extreme footraces are legendary for breaking down runners’ bodies and minds. If paper tape could help runners get through an ultramarathon—in this case, the seven-day, 155-mile RacingthePlanet event—that would be pretty good evidence in its favor.

RacingthePlanet runners literally become globetrotters, completing the race's six stages in different parts of the world. Before the event began, researchers recruited 128 runners: 19 participants from the Jordan segment, 35 from the Gobi, 21 from Madagascar, and 53 from the Atacama Desert. Each participant told study staff about their personal blister history.

Medics associated with the study then applied tape to one foot on each runner. If the runner was blister-prone, the medic stuck tape in areas of previous problems. Otherwise, the location of the tape was randomly assigned to one of four blister-likely areas: the toes, instep, outstep, or heel.

Then the race began. By the finish line, 109 participants (that is, 109 feet) remained in the study. On those feet, the researchers found 97 blisters—but only 28 of those were located in taped areas. The cheapo paper tape had blocked blisters in 74 percent of runners.

"It's kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention," Lipman said. "You can get it anywhere. A little roll costs about 69 cents, and that should last a year or two."

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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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