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Say 'Aaah' | Booster Shots

The Scientific Secrets of Morning Breath

May 03, 1999|ROSIE MESTEL

Health recently got a call from someone at Colgate--"the toothpaste, not the university." (Thanks for clearing that up!) Anyway, the company wanted to alert us to the recent FDA approval of Colgate Total Fresh Stripe, a newer and better version of Colgate Total (that would be the toothpaste, not the cereal).

Both pastes, Colgate says, can help keep breath fresh for 12 full hours.

"How do you know they help keep breath fresh for 12 hours?" we inquired. A few days later, we received a gift-wrapped tube of toothpaste nestled in a bed of pretty, shiny, ribbony packing material. All very lovely, but it still didn't tell us what we longed to know.

And so we called up Colgate and had a chat with Holly Niles, who has one of the most interesting jobs going. A senior technical associate with Colgate-Palmolive in Piscataway, N.J., Niles measures bad breath for a living.

She doesn't sniff it herself (though there are folks who do that): She uses machines. Her human subjects arrive at the lab without brushing their teeth, so that Niles can harvest their morning mouth odor, "the worst breath of the day." They sit with their mouths closed for 10 minutes so the chemicals that make our breath bad build up nicely.

Then Niles draws breath out of their mouths straight onto a fancy chemical-analyzing machine called a gas chromatograph. She waits. Then she sees, on a chart, how much of each chemical--one that smells like rotten eggs, another that smells like skunk--each sample has. The next step? Get people to brush with a toothpaste and remeasure their breath at various intervals.

There. Aren't you glad you know that?

Here's a Workout We Can Handle

Health doesn't just get tubes of toothpaste in the mail. It also receives many a book, magazine and workout video, most of them teetering in a tower on our assistant editor's desk right now. We wouldn't swear we watch every video--but no way could we ignore "Jack at 92."

Jack Roth put together his workout video for seniors after falling and breaking a hip. He'd seen how his wife had never gotten her health back after her fall. So he devised his own set of keep-fit exercises.

Jack's not a licensed physiotherapist, the tape cautions: You should talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. Still, we like Jack's style.

First of all, most of his exercises are done lying on a bed or sitting in a chair (though he does break into a jaunty vaudeville number at one point). To hits of yesteryear, such as "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," he takes seniors through exercises for arms, legs, ankles and feet. Sometimes he roars. Sometimes he encourages us to roar. "I hear you groaning," he says. "That's OK--I groan too," and "Just think, we woke up this morning--that's better than the alternative."

And that's the closest Jack gets to being perky. For that alone, he ought to be given a prize.

Counter Intelligence: Stick to Stainless Steel

Sitting there riffling through interior design catalogs over your double-tall caramel macchiato, you may be wondering whether to go with the slate, wood or polished granite in your next kitchen redesign. This tip from the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, a retail-food-industry college in St. Paul, Minn.: Eschew them all. Get a stainless-steel counter top instead.

Never mind that "industrial" is too, too old. Germs don't like the style either.

The Hospitality Institute folks know this because they swabbed various surfaces with nearly 2 billion E. coli bacteria, then sanitized them. The surface left with the most living bugs? Wood. The least? Stainless steel.

Stainless steel, what's more, is less likely to accumulate little scratches that microbes love to live in. Luckily, it "can be easily incorporated into a diverse array of kitchen designs to add warmth and style," says Nancy Barsotti of the American Society of Interior Designers. Thank heavens.

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