Health research sometimes veers into weird science

June 5, 2019

As a health reporter, I have to follow as many studies as I can to stay on top of the latest research. The best part of this self-education is reading some of the weird stuff going on in academia. From time to time, I do a column on research about “Silly Science.” Here's another ...

Hungover Surgeons 

"Historically, the medical profession has had a reputation for high rates of alcohol consumption," wrote Anthony Gallagher, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in the Archives of Surgery. "It is likely that surgeons are unaware that next-day surgical performance may be compromised as a result of significant alcohol intake."

To measure the degree of impairment brought on by alcohol, the Royal College researchers invited eight surgeons and 16 students out for a night of revelry.

Half the students and all of the surgeons were encouraged to drink until they felt drunk. The rest of the students consumed no alcohol.

The next day, all the subjects performed surgery on a virtual reality system. Those with hangovers did worse than when they were tested before the night out.

See No Fat

Some people think they weigh less than they do, according to a study reported by the American Heart Association.

In the study of women and children in an urban population, most normal-weight women and children in the study correctly estimated their body weight, but most obese women and children underestimated theirs.

With her colleagues, Dr. Nicole Dumas Harkin, a New York cardiologist, surveyed women and their preadolescent children attending an urban primary care center in New York City. 

The researchers found that 66 percent of the mothers surveyed were overweight or obese, and 39 percent of children surveyed were overweight or obese.

More than 80 percent of obese women underestimated their weight compared to 43 percent of overweight and 13 percent of normal-weight women. More than 85 percent of overweight or obese children underestimated their weight compared to 15 percent of normal-weight children.

Anogenital Distance

Baylor College of Medicine researchers tell us that “anogenital distance” – the gap between a man's scrotum and anus – may provide information about fertility.

In a recent study, the Baylor group investigated whether anogenital distance differed in fertile and infertile men. They measured the scrotum-anus distance as well as the penis length of 117 infertile and 56 fertile men visiting a clinic.

The infertile men had a significantly shorter anogenital distance and penis length than the fertile men, the study found.

"This could represent a noninvasive way to test testicular function and reproductive potential in adult men," said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, the study's lead author. He said more research into this subject is necessary.

"We would all like a simple, noninvasive way to predict potential problems with fertility in men, but unfortunately, this one is not ready for prime time," said Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

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