Washing Chicken

Decades ago it was commonly understood that ulcers came from stress. Where parasites or other nasties were suspect in ailments of the lower gut, it was obvious that nothing could live in the toxic soup of human stomach acid. In the early 1980’s, however, it was discovered that a specific bacterium was alive and well in the stomachs of many people suffering from ulcers:

Although stress and spicy foods were once thought to be the main causes of peptic ulcers, doctors now know that the cause of most ulcers is the corkscrew-shaped bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

More recently, the conventional wisdom that human beings need to drink eight glasses of water each day in order to be healthy was also challenged. Having heard this advice most of my life, and having generally ignored it except during an epic mid-July crossing of the Mojave Desert in a non-air-conditioned vehicle, and having known of no human being who did follow that advice, I often wondered about its basis in fact.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Physician Heinz Valtin,…

…a kidney specialist and author of two widely used textbooks on the kidney and water balance, sought to find the origin of this dictum and to examine the scientific evidence, if any, that might support it.

In 2002 he released his finding that there was no evidence to support said dictum. In 2008 a follow-up study reached a similar conclusion:

“There is no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water.”

So where did this belief come from? Valtin believes it may have have….

…originated from a misunderstanding. In 1945 the Food and Nutrition Board, now part of the National Academy of Sciences’s Institute of Medicine, suggested that a person consume one milliliter of water (about one fifth of a teaspoon) for each calorie of food. The math is pretty simple: A daily diet of around 1,900 calories would dictate the consumption of 1,900 milliliters of water, an amount remarkably close to 64 ounces. But many dieticians and other people failed to notice a critical point: namely, that much of the daily need for water could be met by the water content found in food.

Oops.

And what about the vaunted appendix? Hasn’t it been proven beyond any doubt that the appendix does absolutely nothing? That it is, in fact, an evolutionary remnant of some long-lost bodily function?

Well, no. Recent research indicates the appendix may actually be doing the job it was designed for: repopulating the gut with critical bacteria after a riotous bout of Montezuma’s Revenge:

William Parker, Randy Bollinger, and colleagues at Duke University proposed that the appendix serves as a haven for useful bacteria when illness flushes those bacteria from the rest of the intestines.[6][10] This proposal is based on a new understanding of how the immune system supports the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, in combination with many well-known features of the appendix, including its architecture and its association with copious amounts of immune tissue.

Okay: so what does all of this have to do with storytelling in the digital age? Well, I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to talk about chicken washing. No, not that kind of chicken washing. The kind you do when you’re about to cook chicken.  Read more ]