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April 12, 2013

Which parts of your kitchen are the dirtiest?

Blender gaskets, vegetable drawers, can openers, spatulas. Where Germs Hide in Your Kitchen - NYTimes.com
The microwave keypad was the area they considered the dirtiest. But it was not. Instead, the researchers found that refrigerator ice and water dispensers, spatulas, blender gaskets – the rubber seal at the base of the blender that helps prevent leaks – and refrigerator meat and vegetable compartments had the highest germ counts. Water and ice dispensers, which provide moist environments that can breed micro-organisms, were often found to contain yeast and mold. That can be a particular hazard for people with allergies. Refrigerator vegetable compartments were found to harbor salmonella and listeria, and spatulas were home to yeast and mold as well as E. coli. But perhaps the most surprising culprits were blender gaskets, Ms. Yakas said. They frequently harbored not just yeast and mold but E. coli and salmonella. The most likely reason is that people tend not to fully disassemble blenders before cleaning them or putting them in the dishwasher. “A lot of people don’t follow the manufacturer instructions to take them apart and clean them after each use,” Ms. Yakas said. “People just take the lid off and put that whole jar with the base and everything into the dishwasher. So every time that you use it and it sees different food, it just gets more and more gunky.”

April 10, 2013

Using bean leaves to fight bedbugs

How a Leafy Folk Remedy Stopped Bedbugs in Their Tracks - NYTimes.com
Generations of Eastern European housewives doing battle against bedbugs spread bean leaves around the floor of an infested room at night. In the morning, the leaves would be covered with bedbugs that had somehow been trapped there. The leaves, and the pests, were collected and burned — by the pound, in extreme infestations. . . . But even though there is no indication that the bean leaves and the bedbugs evolved to work together, the leaves are fiendishly clever in exploiting the insects’ anatomy. Like the armor covering knights in medieval times, the bedbug’s exoskeleton has thinner areas where its legs flex and its tiny claws protrude — like the spot where a greave, or piece of leg armor, ends. “The areas where they appear to be pierceable,” Dr. Loudon said, “are not the legs themselves. It’s where they bend, where it’s thin. That’s where they get pierced.” This folk remedy from the Balkans was never entirely forgotten. A German entomologist wrote about it in 1927, a scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture mentioned it in a paper in 1943, and it can be found in Web searches about bedbugs and bean plants. . . .

April 07, 2013

Bacteria in red meat may be responsible for heart disease

The article cautiously says that this doesn't mean you should avoid red meat, but c'mon, you should totally avoid red meat. Study Points to New Culprit in Heart Disease - NYTimes.com
The researchers had come to believe that what damaged hearts was not just the thick edge of fat on steaks, or the delectable marbling of their tender interiors. In fact, these scientists suspected that saturated fat and cholesterol made only a minor contribution to the increased amount of heart disease seen in red-meat eaters. The real culprit, they proposed, was a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria in the stomach after people eat red meat. It is quickly converted by the liver into yet another little-studied chemical called TMAO that gets into the blood and increases the risk of heart disease. That, at least, was the theory. So the question that morning was: Would a burst of TMAO show up in peoples’ blood after they ate steak? And would the same thing happen to a vegan who had not had meat for at least a year and who consumed the same meal? The answers were: yes, there was a TMAO burst in the five meat eaters and no, the vegan did not have it. And TMAO levels turned out to predict heart attack risk in humans, the researchers found. The researchers also found that TMAO actually caused heart disease in mice. Additional studies with 23 vegetarians and vegans and 51 meat eaters showed that meat eaters normally had more TMAO in their blood and that they, unlike those who spurned meat, readily made TMAO after swallowing pills with carnitine. “It’s really a beautiful combination of mouse studies and human studies to tell a story I find quite plausible,” said Dr. Daniel J. Rader, a heart disease researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.