Just like sugar, in very large amounts salt is very harmful to the human body. It used to be thought that most of the excess sodium chloride in our diets comes from canned and other commercial food products, but now, a blood pressure specialist at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer maintains that gourmet restaurants are serving up too much salt as well.

Prof. Yehonatan Sharabi, head of the hypertension institute at the hospital and chairman of the Israel Hypertension Society, says this is a new trend. Even one dish at some fancy eating places abroad have more salt than the recommended maximum for a whole day.

A study on salt in restaurant food was conducted recently by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health). Sharabi said that as elite chefs have to compete with each other, instead of spending fortunes on the most expensive ingredients, some of them use the “cheap trick” of adding salt to make their dishes stand out.

The Sheba physician says he has seen signs of Israeli chefs adopting the trick.

An international campaign in 25 countries, including Israel, to increase awareness of excessive use of salt was held last week.

The Health Ministry announced recently it will require restaurants to list the amount of salt in what they serve. Sharabi said this is a positive development, as creating more public awareness of the harmful effects of sodium will increase public demand for better food and change the food industry as well.

GAMING YOUR WAY TO BETTER KEYHOLE SURGERY As eye-hand coordination is so important in surgeons performing laparoscopic procedures, it my be a good idea for doctors to start playing with Nintendo’s Wii game console. A study at the University of Rome showed that playing with the console improved certain measurable skills involved in key-hole surgery. The findings were published in the journal PLoS One.

Previous studies have assessed the effect of playing video games on hand-eye coordination and spatial attention. In the current research, the authors combined these two aspects by analyzing how a four-week training regimen on the Wii impacted the laparoscopic skills of post-graduate residents in the first or second year of their surgical training. Half of the surgeons were assigned to a training regimen on the Wii while the other half were not. Before and after the regimen, all the participants’ performances were tested on a laparoscopic simulator.

The study found that participants in both groups improved their skills over the month-long week period, but those who had been trained on the Wii had a significant advantage over the other group in their performances on several specific metrics, such as economy of instrument movement.

The study concludes that Wii might be a helpful, inexpensive and entertaining part of the training of young laparoscopists, in addition to a standard surgical education based on simulators and the operating room.

COOLER SPERM ARE MORE FERTILE The higher quality of human sperm in the winter months may explain the ups and downs of fertility through the year, according to research conducted at Soroka University Medical Center and published recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Eliahu Levitas of the Beersheba hospital’s fertility and in-vitro fertilization unit checked nearly 6,500 semen samples and studied their quality (number of sperm and their motility or speed of movement) along with the month in which they were provided.

Motility of the sperm has a lot to do with success in impregnation.

Between 2005 and 2010, nearly 80,000 babies were born at Soroka.

The study showed that in the autumn months of September, October and November, 22,732 babies were born over five years, compared to only 17,753 over five years in the spring months of March, April and May. Levitas said that this seems to reflect the negative influence of heat on the testicles, which are outside the body. Couples who have fertility problems, he advises, should pay more attention to the seasons and “increase their efforts” during the colder months.

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