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IN BRIEF

The Baltimore Sun

Food science

Soaking fries cuts possible carcinogen

A wet tater is a healthy tater, according to British researchers. Rinsing or soaking raw french fries in water before frying may reduce levels of acrylamide in the crunchy product, according to a team led by investigators at Leatherhead Food International, a food and beverage research and consulting company. The study appeared online last week in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Acrylamide, which is created in small amounts during production of french fries and potato chips, has been linked to cancer in rodents, and some researchers believe it may be carcinogenic to humans as well. The Brits found that soaking potatoes for two hours reduced acrylamide levels in fries by 48 percent. Simply washing the potatoes, or soaking them for 30 minutes, reduced acrylamide by 23 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

This outcome isn't surprising, says Barry Swanson, a food science professor at Washington State University. Rinsing and soaking the spuds reduces levels of sugar - one of the chemicals that reacts, upon frying, to form the acrylamide.

Scientists are still debating the health consequences of acrylamide, Swanson adds, but largely agree on another point: Overdosing on the salt and fat in fries isn't good for you. "Don't worry about the acrylamide in the french fries," he says. "Just cut down on the portion."

Los Angeles Times

Work injuries

Cases of repetitive strain injuries drop

With the personal computing boom of the 1990s came thousands of "repetitive stress injuries" or "repetitive strain injuries." RSI became the hip medical acronym of the keyboard era, with subset carpal tunnel syndrome the diagnosis of the day.

But the number of carpal tunnel cases has plummeted, declining 21 percent in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among workers in professional and business services, the number of carpal tunnel syndrome cases fell by half from 2005 to 2006.

What changed?

First, it may not have been the white-collar epidemic it appeared to be. A 2001 study by the Mayo Clinic found heavy computer users (up to seven hours a day) had the same rate of carpal tunnel as the general population. Blue-collar workers, especially those doing assembly-line work such as meat or poultry packing, have a far greater incidence of carpal tunnel than white-collar workers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

That doesn't mean white-collar workers don't get carpal tunnel and related disorders. But it may mean such disorders were overdiagnosed when they were most in the news, resulting in an artificially high number of cases by the late 1990s. Most doctors have dropped the term RSI, calling such problems "musculoskeletal disorders." Now, experts think some of those patients had "referred pain" from trouble elsewhere, such as the neck. Other theories claim attention to ergonomics has prevented injuries or they are underreported.

Associated Press

Transplants

Rejection, costs among risks

The need to improve tolerance of transplanted organs goes beyond the inconvenience and side effects of immunosuppressive drugs.

For starters, the drugs don't always prevent rejection that takes place slowly, over the course of five to 10 years, causing many patients to eventually lose their donated organs.

Then there's the cost.

The standard immunosuppressive drug cocktail for kidney transplant patients costs about $15,000 per year, according to a Web site for the PKD Foundation, an advocacy group for patients with polycystic kidney disease, more than 60 percent of whom eventually need kidney transplants.

A cost-benefit analysis by Dr. T. Kawai, the first author of the Massachusetts General Hospital study, showed that the upfront costs of the procedure used in that research could be about $45,000 more than a traditional kidney transplant because of the simultaneous bone marrow transplant. But, the analysis found, the cost of immunosuppressive drugs and treatments for complications from the drugs can easily surpass that amount in five years.

Los Angeles Times

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