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As anybody who’s ever gone swimming or taken a bath knows, one consequence can be pruny fingers (and toes). Why it happens doesn’t seem to be entirely clear. Some researchers say it’s the result of irregular absorption and loss — some skin cells plump with added moisture while others loss it — or because blood vessels in our fingers and toes constrict to reduce heat loss, pulling overlying skin surfaces inward.
Whatever the cause, the result is a case of temporary digit wrinkles.
It’s not a particularly good look, but it might be healthful and helpful in an indirect, odd sort of way. A 2011 study by Idaho-based researchers found that the wrinkles form channel patterns that divert water away from the fingertip, not unlike what tire treads are supposed to do with rainwater.
Scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom tested the idea, timing people as they transferred wet or dry objects from one box to another with or without wrinkled fingers. They found that with pruny fingers, people moved wet objects 12 percent faster than with non-pruny fingers. Dry objects were moved in the same amount of time regardless of finger condition.
The finding suggests an evolved advantage to ancestors whose digits pruned when wet. The obvious next question, noted New Scientist magazine recently, is why don’t our fingers always remain prune-like?
The Newcastle scientists had one possible answer: Pruniness means less skin surface touching an object, which translates into less sensory input. In other words, plumper fingers feel better.
BODY OF KNOWLEDGE
In the course of an hour, roughly 600,000 particles of skin fall off your body. In the course of a year, that adds up to about 1.5 pounds of flesh — the equivalent weight of an iPad.
LIFE IN BIG MACS
One hour of baton twirling burns 272 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.4 Big Macs.
STORIES FOR THE WAITING ROOM
With roughly one-third of American children overweight or obese, the number of clinic-based pediatric weight control programs has grown proportionate to their waistlines. These programs can be effective, but they’re usually expensive, time-consuming and beyond the resources of many families.
Kerri Boutelle, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego who specializes in eating disorders and obesity, conducted a study in which 50 overweight or obese 8- to 12-year-olds participated in a low-intensity, five-month weight loss program guided largely by their parents, rather than professionals.
Boutelle reports that the children significantly decreased their body mass index compared to a control group, suggesting that children needing to lose pounds don’t necessarily need an intensive, expensive program to do it.
Crump — a term used when a patient’s condition suddenly takes a turn for the worse.
PHOBIA OF THE WEEK
Acerophobia — fear of sourness
NEVER SAY DIET
The Major League Eating speed-eating record for soft beef tacos (from Taco Bell) is 53 in 10 minutes, held by Joey Chestnut. Warning: Most of these records are held by professional eaters; the rest by people who really should find something better to do.
“A natural death is one not aided by a doctor.” —American humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910)
In 1999, the 67-year-old wife of an English farmer named Betty Stobbs drove the family all-terrain vehicle out to where their flock of sheep resided in a field adjacent to a quarry. She was towing a small trailer carrying their dinner of hay.
The sheep were apparently very hungry. When Stobbs fatefully stopped her ATV next to the edge of the quarry, the sheep charged, knocking her into the quarry. Stobbs might have survived the fall, but the sheep also pushed the ATV over the edge. The ATV fell on top of her.