Monday, November 19, 2007

The Emperor of Ice Cream

Is is possible to live on bread and water only?

For a while, yes.

We're assuming a good brand of unenriched white bread.

But then you would develop scurvey (lack of vitamin c), beriberi (lack of vitamin B), rickets (lack of vitamine D), kakke disease (see beriberi), and you would eventually be deprived of essential amino acids, that is, ones you cannot synthesize. That would lead to a loss of protein and breakdown of muscles.

There are also essential fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid.

So even if your diet were restricted to bread, water and a vitamin pill, you eventually would waste away.

Your teeth would fall out, your connective tissue disintegrate, and you would develop pressure sores.

But on the brighter side, you would definitely lose weight.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Stick it in Your Ear

If you surf cable TV channels late at night you're sure to see a new low in smoking cessation ads.

This is the "auricular" treatment that allegedly eliminates the desire to smoke in two weeks.

A crazed blonde claims the device is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (it's not) and so easy to use. The system is two small magnets, perhaps strong rare earth magnets.

The smoker puts magnets on both sides of the left ear. Here's a chance to brush up on the external anatomy of the human ear. The magnets are to be placed on the Scapha, the outermost C-shaped plane next to the outer fold.

That's it. Why would sticking magnets to your ear ease the desire to smoke? A "pressure point" in the ear stimulates the same parts of the brain as nicotine. This is signified in the ad by fireworks going off in the smoker's head.

This suggests that a smoker could give up tobacco and get hooked instead on little magnets in the ear. If any of this contained a grain of truth, that would be good.

However, stimulating the smoking parts of the brain does not seem as if it would quell the desire to smoke.

Or maybe you end up wanting to smoke magnets.

Too Much of A Good Thing

One sentence in the ads for erectile dysfunction prescription medications never fails to get a laugh. If you have an erection lasting more than four hours seek immediate medical help, the warning goes, more or less.

Predictably, men watching this often snicker and say "If I had an erection for four hours I would..." Fill in the lubricious blank. Well, what would you do? It's not as if many middle-aged men have dozens of eager partners waiting to service them.

At any rate, the caution seems silly. What harm could there be in a 240-minute erection?

To understand the problem, consider what causes an erection. Blood rushes in and one-way valves keep it from leaving until the blood is no longer needed.

An erection that won't end is called "priapism," after the king of Troy, Priam, who legend says fathered 50 offspring.

Priapism is usually painful, and usually affects males between 5 to 10 and 20 to 50 years. If not treated promptly, priapism can cause scarring and permanent erectile dysfunction.

Yes, that's right. Permanent.

Priapism cen be caused by sickle cell disease, leukemia, black widow spider bites, carbon monoxide poisoning, and of course, certain medications. The condition is treated with ice packs, injections, and shunts to let the blood drain.

That doesn't seem like a barrel of laughs.

Priapism is one kind of ED you definitely don't want.