Supplements: when they're better than food
Fish - especially fatty fish like swordfish and salmon - are rich in omega-3, and protect against coronary heart disease. Sadly, they are also high in mercury.
So, to find out whether fish-oil supplements offered the same protection, but without the mercury toxicity, researchers tested five different fish-oil supplements containing 'non-detectable' to 'negligible' levels of mercury - far lower than the amounts in the fish they examined. The protective qualities were the same, but without the risk (Arch Pathol Lab Med, 2003; 127: 1603-5).
Diabetes: a double glycaemic mocha betta?
More coffee is drunk in Finland than anywhere else in the world, so researchers tested local coffee-drinkers to determine if the brew protected against diseases such as type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.
They found that those who drank the old-style pot-boiled coffee were three times as likely to develop diabetes compared with those who drank theirs filtered (JAMA, 2004; 291: 1213-9).
Cigarette-smoking: now it's linked to lupus
Researchers now acknowledge that smoking can increase the risk of lupus (SLE, or systemic lupus erythematosus) by 1.5 times. But, as with coronary heart disease, the risk wanes once you kick the habit (Arthritis Rheum, 2004; 50: 849-57).
Steam inhalation: a hazardous home remedy
Over a six-month period, one Dublin hospital found itself treating seven serious cases of scalding following steam inhalation. Six of the children had facial burns as a result of direct contact with the hot water, and two children had burns caused by the bowl tipping over onto their chest or into their lap.
A safer technique is to sit in the bathroom with a very hot shower running, hold your child in your lap and read him a story (BMJ, 2004; 328: 757).