Toothbrush Sanitizers to Ward Off Flu?

Rinsing a toothbrush with tap water is old-hat hygiene. Toothbrush sanitizers are the newest way to zap germs--and perhaps reduce the frequency of colds and flu.

In one sanitizing system called Brushgard, the toothbrush is inserted into a small plastic bottle containing hydrogen peroxide and water. "Viruses and bacteria cannot live in the solution," claims Jeff Hutner, spokesman for Brushgard Systems Inc. The whole system sells for $1.39, but the manufacturer recommends that customers replace it every 10 days. Having just introduced Brushgard in local health food stores, the Inglewood company expects to distribute it nationwide soon.

Dentec 4000, a plug-in sanitizing system that "bathes your toothbrushes in ultraviolet germicidal light" sells for $59.95 at department and specialty stores around the country, says Joe Bello, Dentec spokesman. He claims the ultraviolet light killed germs in independent and Dentec laboratory studies. Since the light stays on for only two minutes per half hour, the bulb lasts up to five years. Each system holds four brushes.

"Both systems have potential for reducing the number of germs on toothbrushes," believes Richard Glass, professor and chairman of oral pathology at the University of Oklahoma, who tested Brushgard and Dentec 4000. "The unanswered question is: Does either system decrease the organisms enough to have an impact on health?"

But the American Dental Assn. isn't convinced the sanitizers are necessary because, according to a spokesman, "there's no substantial scientific evidence you can be reinfected with a cold by reusing your toothbrush."

What's really needed, say some dental experts, is a more efficient toothbrush--one with fewer nooks and crannies for germs.

Soups Vary in Health Benefits, Say Experts

As weather cools, weight-conscious consumers turn to soup to keep warm and trim. But all soups aren't created equal. If weight control is your primary aim, keep in mind these soup rules:

If you buy canned soups, don't be fooled by names. "Cream of spinach soup isn't as healthy as it may sound," says Gretchen Newmark, a Santa Monica dietitian, since the cream base adds fat.

If you still can't resist such soups, "make them with low-fat milk," suggests Linda Dahl, a dietitian at HCA Los Robles Regional Medical Center, Thousand Oaks.

If you order soup in a restaurant, "vegetable or minestrone soups are often good bets to avoid excess fat," advises Newmark.

If you have high blood pressure, opt for low-salt or reduced-salt canned soups, Dahl suggests. "Or at least mix a can of reduced-salt or salt-free soup with a can of salted soup."

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