Food media tends to be pretty prescriptive, telling us a bit too often that what we put in our bodies may be silently killing us and corrupting our fragile, fickle bodies. Why listen to people telling us to eat like rabbits when we want steak, speaking from places of feigned and unearned authority? Nonsense.
Unless, of course, you're talking about scientists.
It feels as if every day brings a “recent study” that reveals some theretofore undiscovered truth about what we stick down our gullets, or, better yet, confirms suspicions that hadn’t yet been tested about our our digestive tracts.
The pace of the news cycle may diminish and obscure what these studies actually have to say. So it's worth revisiting what science taught us. Let’s sift through the wonderful world of science, shall we? Behold, the year in food science.
Ah, the "drunchies," caused by an onslaught of alcohol that turn us all into feverish gluttons. A group of researchers from London's Francis Crick Institute learned stimulates the brain's "AgRP" neurons, found in both mice (the test subjects) and humans, leading to "rapid overeating." Amazing. Glad that one's solved.
Dr. Anthony Strickland of the University of Melbourne recommends a three-step plan: shake upward, turn it upside down and quick shake downwards so the sauce edges into the bottleneck, and tilt it at a 45-degree angle before unscrewing the lid, tapping its bottom with force. (Though Strickland concluded 'catsup' shouldn't be in a glass bottle at all, which, uh, strong agree.)
Ah, the food coma, that somewhat lulling, somewhat debilitating state brought on by consuming too much too fast without much in the way of discipline—it's really, as a team of folks at Ohio's Bowling Green State University and the Scripps Research Institute discovered, due to a gnarly mix of protein and salt that requires a long, protracted slumber for digestion.
I know what you're thinking: anything is better than studying math, frankly. Duh.
But hear this dude out. Dr. Gordon Shepherd, a neuroscientist and the author of the book Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates The Taste of Wine, claims that drinking wine triggers more brain functions than literally any other human behavior, though he notes there's quite a downside: Drink too much and wine impairs your judgment. Go figure.
On, not in your body, warns the American Heart Association of coconut oil: 82% of coconut oil's fat is saturated, a higher concentration than what you'd find in butter or pork lard.
The folks at the American Chemical Society have, at long last, given us a reason to understand this fruit's rather alarming pungency: the presence of compounds that results in an odorous coleslaw they describe as "smelled of fruit, rotten onion, and roasted onion," along with "chemicals with strong notes of cabbage and sulfur." Oh, baby.
In utterly fantastic, not-at-all-disturbing news, a study from Belgium's University of Ghent revealed that consumers of seafood unknowingly and routinely swallow 11,000 pieces of plastic per year, lodging themselves in their body tissues and potentially leading to long-term health risks. Sick.
Folks, if you've ever been kinkshamed for your odd food pairing fetishes, here's some good news. Cambridge physicist Dr. Sebastian Ahnert presented the findings of a 2011 study in April of this year in which he'd mapped a bunch of flavor networks, resulting in hypothetical pairings of different, seemingly discordant foods—coffees and potatoes, for example—whose flavors may play off one another's.
Of course, the success of such pairings is largely dependent on preparation: Ahnert hated having milky coffee with mashed potatoes. Though he thought a milk-and-taters dish he had in France was just divine.
A double whammy of studies in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in April disproved the long-held belief that consuming metric tons of salt makes us thirstier for water. In fact, it made test subjects less thirsty, and just more hungry. Word.
A May study out of a literal publication called the Journal of Pain determined that increasing someone's blood alcohol content to 0.08 has the effect of increasing their pain threshold, too, resulting in a reduction of pain intensity. Wonderful news. Too bad alcohol can't wash away the pain of drinking too much.
Research from the University of California, Berkeley's Department of Molecular and Cell Biology found that lupeol, a compound in mangoes and grapes and olives alike, can dodge "sperm hyper activation" that, in turn, averts the potential fertilization of an egg. Just put lupeol in a pill, and voila: You've potentially got a pathway to male birth control in the form of a "molecular condom."
A report out of Scientific Reports in August recommended that the whiskey snob in your life who routinely adds drops of water to coax some flavor out of the liquor may not be that crazy after all—in fact, water coaxes the guaiacol molecules present in whiskey to the top of a glass, making for a richer, more full-bodied drinking experience.
Cheers to that, I guess.
This one's no fun: A September case report in the British Medical Journal documented the case of a 67-year-old cancer patient who got cyanide poisoning from having way too much apricot seed extract, a common but unproven form of self-medicating, sending his cyanide levels through the roof—a whopping 25 times above the normal amount for a human.
READ MORE: How Apricots Can Poison You
Oh, yum. Happy freakin' birthday. Blowing candles out on your cake, according to researchers at Clemson University, is a surefire way of increasing the amount of bacteria on the icing of your cake by a whopping 1400%.
No, really—the head author, Paul Dawson, said that this still puts people at relatively low risk for getting sick. Amazing. Blow, baby, blow.
A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut discovered that teens dependent on alcohol or marijuana tended to achieve "lower levels of education, were less likely to be employed full time, were less likely to get married, and had lower social economic potential." A grim prognosis, to be sure.
...On that note, folks, there you have it. Studies? Yeah, they’re everywhere. Can't wait to see what 2018 brings.