What's That On Your Hand? And Other News

by DavalosMcCormack on November 6, 2008

150. That’s how many different strains of bacteria were found on the hands of a group of people involved in a new study. 150 different living organisms, crawling over your hands. And women, on average, had more bacteria on their hands than men.

The study was done by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who clearly love doing research with a big yuck factor. They say this just gives us a glimpse at just how popular the human hand is with bacteria looking for a place to hang out.

The hope is that studies like this will give us a better understanding of human bacteria, and open up new ways to track disease.

The researchers say that woman have more bacteria on their hands than men, and a greater diversity of bacteria too. They say this could be due to the fact that men’s hands tend to be more acidic than women’s and that bacteria tend not to do so well in more acidic surroundings.

It could also be due to other factors such as skin thickness, hormones and sweat gland production.

The researchers also point out that this is natural, that without bacteria on our hands we might be in a lot more trouble than we already are with that many things crawling around on our skin.

SMOKING AND BIRTH DEFECTS

There’s a great scene in the movie version of the musical “Hairspray” where the main characters are walking by a bar and inside are heavily pregnant women drinking martinis and smoking up a storm. It’s a reminder of all the crazy things we used to think were safe during pregnancy.

No more. And if you needed further proof of that you don’t have to look any further than the latest issue of The Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers found that babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a cleft lip or cleft palate, compared to babies born to non-smoking mothers.

Close to 7,000 babies are born with cleft lips or palates every year in the U.S. These can cause problems with feeding, hearing, speech and can also lead to frequent ear infections. Altogether not very pleasant, and something to be avoided.

AND YOU THOUGHT SMOKING WAS BAD

As if the news for pregnant women wasn’t bad enough! Not only do they have to stop smoking, but another new study says they should also cut back on the coffee. And tea. And chocolate.

The study, in the BMJ, found that even small amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can increase the risk of a condition called “fetal growth restriction”, that’s where the developing fetus doesn’t grow as much as expected leading to smaller birth weight babies.

They found that a woman drinking the equivalent of a large cup of coffee – with 100 milligrams of caffeine in it – had a 20 percent increased risk of fetal growth restriction. And that a woman drinking three large cups, had a 50 percent increased risk.

An editorial in the same journal tries to put the findings in perspective when it says they could “unnecessarily frighten some women”, particularly in light of the fact that previous studies had failed to find any connection between caffeine and fetal growth restriction.

Nonetheless the editorial writers say that it probably wouldn’t hurt pregnant women to cut back on caffeine consumption while they are pregnant.

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