Monday, June 10, 2013

Darwin Awards and Food, Part II

A couple of posts back, I cracked a little wise on poisoning myself with potato sprouts, making light of the dangers of trying new things. One sprout is not that dangerous especially since it is so hard to eat given the taste. The taste is the early warning system for most poisonous foods. Unfortunately, there are other more risky stunts that don't sound harmful but can cause some really nasty side effects and even death.

Let's start with chugging milk or water. Neither sounds too harmful. There are tons (or is that tonnes) of YouTube videos of kids trying to chug a gallon (3.78l) chug of milk in 60 minutes. Most end up vomiting. The most likely scientific explanation is that the human body can't hold that much liquid in the system. I haven't been able to nail down a conclusive study or medical journey citation but there are mentions everywhere about it.

Is it any liquid? Mostly, but water has a bit of a special trick. The funny part about the 60 minute challenge with water is that water does leave the system at about a gallon per hour, so it is possible to get water in and sometimes keep it down. As long as your body is operating optimally, you will probably vomit. The problem with drinking too much water is that it can kill you. It is called water intoxication. Too much water in a short period of time can cause something called water intoxication which can upset the electrolytes in your body and even cause death.

So water... seems innocuous. There are other challenges that seem doable. Take the cinnamon challenge.  Just swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds without water can cause coughing, irritation of the throat, breathing difficulties, risk of pneumonia and collapsed lungs. Riskier than crunching into that potato sprout.

Nutmeg, another common spice, can be used as an hallucinogenic drug but has so many bad side effects that it should not be attempted. The amount of nutmeg that would cause this effect is not too high that any person would think that it would cause such effects. Another common spice rack standard is alum. Alum (sodium alum) used in pickling can also be poisonous in large doses. And so it goes with many ordinary spices. Many of them require a huge quantity and the flavour would put you off before you got to a dangerous point.

I'll leave you with this last link about soy sauce and how drinking a litre of soy sauce can kill. This is more of a case of sodium poisoning. What scared me about the story was that it turns out that you can poison yourself long term with sodium. I'm not talking high blood pressure and all that but rather another case of upsetting the other salts in your system.

The thing is that none of these examples have a poisonous taste. It is the quantity of something that is considered good for you in most cases. I guess it just goes to reinforce the saying that everything should be in moderation.

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