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Whether supplements marketed as memory aids actually work is a matter of debate (and minimal scientific scrutiny), but what seems indisputable is that supplements ought to contain what they say they contain.

Federal investigators tested three popular (but unidentified) supplements. One product branded as Ginkgo biloba didn't contain any leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, long touted as a remedy for memory problems, cardiovascular issues and mood disorders.

Another listed Ginkgo biloba as one of its ingredients, but again didn't contain any.

Both supplements, however, contained substitute ingredients that investigators could not identify.

The third supplement, marketed as fish oil, actually contained fish oil.

Investigators' results were sent to the Food and Drug Administration for review.

Just something to remember when you think about taking memory supplements.

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE

■ The average human head has roughly 100,000 hair follicles, each capable of producing 20 individual hairs over a lifetime (though some, alas, quit early). Blondes typically have more follicles, about 146,000, while people with black hair have about 110,000, those with brown hair about 100,000. Redheads have the least-dense hair, at 86,000 follicles on average.

■ A baby cannot taste salt until roughly 4 months old, writes Georgina O'Hara in her book The World of the Baby. The delay may be related to the development of kidneys, which start to process sodium around that age.

GET ME THAT, STAT!

According to the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of men have begun to experience some balding by the age of 35. By the age of 50, 85 percent of men have significant thinning, primarily due to male-pattern baldness.

GOOD MEDICINE

The patient sat in the exam room, waiting and miserable.

A doctor walked into the room and looked intently at the patient.

"Flu?" asked the patient.

"No, drove to work today," replied the doctor.

BETTER MEDICINE

A man went to see his doctor because he had a terrible cold. The physician prescribed some pills, but they didn't help, and the man returned the next day. The doctor gave him an injection, but that didn't improve the man's cold either.

On his third visit, the doctor told the man to go home and take a hot bath, immediately followed by standing outside in the cold. "But doc," protested the patient, "if I do that, I'll get pneumonia."

"I know," replied the physician. "I can cure pneumonia."

MANIA AND PHOBIA

Oligomania: Obsession with a few thoughts or ideas.

Alektorophobia: Fear of chickens.

BEST MEDICINE

"Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do 'practice'?"

— Comedian George Carlin (1937-2008)

MEDICAL HISTORY

In the first week of January 1966, all U.S. cigarette packages began carrying the warning: "Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health."

DON'T LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Imbibing alcohol on a cold day does not actually warm the body. Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate or open, moving warm blood closer to the skin and making one "feel" warm. In fact, the result is that the imbiber is likely losing body heat faster.

MED SCHOOL

Q: Can you identify these body parts: hallux, purlicue, canthus, gnathion and glabella?

A: The hallux is your big toe. The purlicue is the space between the forefinger and thumb. The canthus refers to the point in the (inner or outer) corner of the eye, where the upper and lower eyelids meet. The gnathion is the lowest point of the jawbone, i.e., the outward point of the chin. The glabella is the smooth part of the forehead, between and above the eyebrows.

RESEARCH NEEDED

You've been entrusted with making difficult health care decisions for older loved ones. It's a great honor and a grave responsibility. So here's the first tough question: Do you actually know what the patient would want?

Chances are, the answer is no.

In a newly published study, researchers at Yale University interviewed 350 patients 55 and older in the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and the people entrusted to make health care decisions for them (health care surrogates).

While 75 percent of surrogates expressed high confidence in their knowledge of patients' preferences, only 21 percent knew what the patient would want in the event of severe physical problems causing them to be bedbound; severe mental decline that left them unable to recognize family members; and severe daily pain.

The problem, said the researchers, is that older people fill out forms alone. "Advance care planning cannot focus on the patient alone. The health care agent has to be brought into the conversation," said study leader Terri Fried, a professor of medicine at Yale University.

HYPOCHONDRIAC'S GUIDE

Hemiasomatognosia: A neurological condition in which a person, typically after having a stroke or other brain injury, loses sense of about half of his body, leading to neglect of it. In this subset of anosognosia, people with certain disabilities seem unaware of their disability's existence.

EPITAPH

"Don't try." — Gravestone of German-born American poet Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

The phrase, used in one of his poems, alludes to his advice to aspiring writers. Asked to explain, he once said, "Somebody asked me, 'What do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't try, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it."

Style on 01/07/2019

Print Headline: Beware supplements without main ingredients

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