The lurking peril on your salad knife, and why teasing girls about weight is bad for their health

If you don’t wash the blade after chopping, say, tomatoes, you could spread bugs such as E.coli or salmonella to the next vegetable you chop for a salad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 11:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 11:21am

Kitchen utensils can spread bacteria between foods

Preparing a salad? It’s best to wash your knife thoroughly in between slicing the tomatoes and carrots. In a recent study funded by the US Food and Drug Administration, University of Georgia researchers found that produce that contained bacteria would contaminate other produce items through the continued use of knives or graters. In the study, which is published in Food Microbiology, the researchers contaminated many types of fruits and vegetables in the lab, adding certain pathogens that often can be found on these foods, such as salmonella and E. coli. They used a knife cut into things like tomatoes or cantaloupe and other types of produce, as well as grated produce such as carrots, to see how easily the bacteria could spread when the knife or grater was continuously used without being cleaned. Both knives and graters were found to cause additional cross-contamination in the kitchen. The pathogens were spread from produce to produce if the utensils weren’t washed. In concurrent studies, the researchers found that scrubbing or peeling produce items – such as melons, carrots and celery – did not eliminate contamination on the produce item but led to contamination of the brush or peeler. Even when placed under running water, the utensils still became contaminated.

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Study finds teasing girls about weight is more than a playground joke

Being teased about weight could have long-lasting and harmful effects to a young girl’s perception of herself and of food, finds a new University of Houston study. Professor Norma Olvera, a health educator with the university’s College of Education, surveyed 135 girls who were all about 11 years old. All the girls had high body fat; 81 per cent were considered obese. The girls answered questions about peer-weight teasing at the hands of boys and girls. They also discussed their response to the teasing. Fifty-two per cent of respondents indicated they had been teased about their weight by girls; 60 per cent had been teased by boys. Some of the teasing came from siblings. Olvera says the girls became at risk of developing disordered eating behaviours in order to control their weight and avoid the psychological disturbances and stigma of being overweight. Seventy per cent of the girls reported implementing weight-control behaviours, such as cutting back or skipping meals, dieting or starving themselves in order to be thinner. Twelve per cent said they engaged in binge and purge behaviours (feeling unable to stop eating followed by forcing themselves to throw up) in order to lose weight. Thirty-three per cent said they engaged in emotional eating (eating more or less because they felt bored or upset) because of being teased about their weight.

Mindfulness meditation trumps placebo in pain reduction

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre have found new evidence that not only does mindfulness meditation reduce pain more effectively than placebo, but also produced very different patterns of brain activity than those produced by placebo to reduce pain. In the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 75 healthy, pain-free participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: mindfulness meditation, placebo meditation (”sham” meditation), placebo analgesic cream (petroleum jelly) or control. Pain was induced by using a thermal probe to heat a small area of the participants’ skin to 49 degrees Celsius. Study participants then rated pain intensity (physical sensation) and pain unpleasantness (emotional response). They also had MRI brains scans before and after the interventions. The mindfulness meditation group reported that pain intensity was reduced by 27 per cent and pain unpleasantness by 44 per cent, while the placebo cream reduced the sensation of pain by 11 per cent and emotional aspect of pain by 13 per cent. Mindfulness meditation reduced pain by activating brain regions (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) associated with the self-control of pain while the placebo cream lowered pain by reducing brain activity in pain-processing areas (secondary somatosensory cortex). Another brain region, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation, but was activated during all other conditions. This brain region serves as a gateway that determines if sensory information is allowed to reach higher brain centres.