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For thousands of years, people feared the moon could change us into werewolves or even mermaids.These days, alternative health gurus sell calendars that show the 'best' lunar phase for losing weight (supposedly a waning moon - one that is getting smaller in the sky) or using face packs (a waxing moon - which is getting larger).Such ideas may seem scientifically laughable. But might there be something in them?Last week, U.S. surgeons reported that people undergoing heart surgery have a lower death rate if their operation is done when the moon is starting to wane.The study at Rhode Island Hospital followed 210 patients who'd undergone surgery between January 1996 and December 2011 to repair life-threatening tears in the lining of the aorta, a rare condition known as aortic dissection.Dr Frank Sellke, the lead researcher and chief cardiothoracic surgeon, says: 'We found the odds of dying following the procedure were greatly reduced during the waning full moon, and that length of stay was also reduced during the full moon.'Indeed, people who had the surgery during a full moon stayed in hospital for an average of ten days, compared with 14 for those who underwent it at other times in the lunar cycle, according to a report in the journal Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.This kind of lunar influence - also known as the 'Transylvania effect' - has long caused rows among medical experts. Does the moon really affect our bodies, or is such evidence is merely the result of coincidences and statistical quirks? More... Meet Edward, the super-dog who saves his owner's life nearly every night - and can even load the washing machine Number of smokers in the UK set to fall below 20% for the first time in a century 'Worrying' increase in alcohol-related deaths among young women in BritainA report in April's European Journal of Preventive Cardiology seems to support the moon-believers. As with the Rhode Island study, it found that the waning moon just after a full moon may protect people's hearts.The researchers, from the Central Hospital of Augsburg, Germany, studied the records of 16,000 heart-attack victims, and also found significantly fewer attacks occurred in the three days after a new moon.Some experts believe this may be caused by the moon's gravitational pull affecting heart functions. When the moon is full, and at new moons (when the sun and moon are aligned), the gravitational pull of the moon and sun are combined, and gravity is thought to be at its strongest. The idea is that this may have the most beneficial effect on human circulation at or just after a full moon.Evidence for this effect has also been found in India by researchers at Vidyasagar University. They asked 80 students to do exercises every day for a month while having their heart rate, blood pressure and athletic performance monitored.