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Medical science examines urban myths
Researchers have taken the scalpel of science to three urban myths in time for the Christmas season.

The studies appear today in the British Medical Journal.

Medical researchers at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, tested the belief that drinking alcohol with a rich meal will give you indigestion.

They enrolled 20 volunteers who ate a cheese fondue and washed it down with either wine or black tea, both of them popular options in Switzerland. Ninety minutes after their meal, they were given either a cherry liqueur (schnapps) or water.

Those who consumed alcohol had a much slower digestion of their food than the non-alcohol group. And the more booze they drank, the more their appetite diminished. But they did not get any more symptoms of heartburn, belching or bloating compared to the non-alcohol group.
Pickled feet

According to some people in Denmark, submerging your feet in alcohol can cause you to become drunk.

Dr Peter Lommer Kristensen and colleagues of Hillerod Hospital, Denmark, put their bodies on the line, by immersing their feet for three hours in a washing-up bowl containing three bottles of cheap Slovak vodka. They measured their blood-alcohol levels every 30 minutes.

"For a little while, we were laughing and felt buoyant and wondered if this was the effect of the alcohol," says Kristensen. But it was just the daftness of the occasion - not the absorption of any booze - that had caused the giggles.

For all its jokiness, the experiment proves that the skin provides a strong barrier against alcohol, although cuts and abrasions or a foot disease could weaken the shield.
Beauty sleep

One myth that appeared to hold firm, looked into the effect of a good night's sleep.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden photographed 23 men and women aged 18 to 31 after the volunteers had had a normal, eight-hour sleep and again after they had been deprived of sleep for 31 hours.

For the pictures, the volunteers wore no makeup, wore their hair loose, underwent identical cleaning or shaving procedures for both conditions and were told to have a neutral facial expression.

The 46 pictures were then presented in random order to 65 untrained observers. On average, someone who was sleep-deprived was rated 6% less healthy, 4% less attractive and 19% more tired than when he or she had had a good night's sleep.

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