10 Disgusting Beauty Treatments

10 Disgusting Beauty Treatments

How far are you willing to go to get the hot new look? Much of human history has been driven by the desire to present ourselves in our best light. As it turns out, there’s not much that people won’t do in their struggle to be attractive. Here are ten of the grossest things people have tried in the name of beauty.

10 Eel Exfoliation Bath

Eel Bath

Photo credit: Christopher Jones/REX via The Guardian

Some very expensive bubble baths leave you feeling slimy after you get out of the tub. Their manufacturers prefer to say “moisturized” — but for one treatment, “slimy” is definitely the word. To get that perfect glow in their skin, some people in China are taking baths filled with tiny eels.

Each eel is about the size of a pencil. They wriggle over the body and nibble at the dead skin covering it. This leaves the youthful-looking living skin underneath shining through. Unfortunately, the eels haven’t learned to differentiate between the skin on the outside and the internal membranes.

A gentleman wearing loose underwear in the eel bath felt a sharp pain and found that an eel had found its way into his penis. It took a three-hour surgery to remove the errant fish and prompted other countries to watch out for those looking to import the eels.

9 Radiation Therapy


Whenever a scientific discovery is made, there’s always a scramble to find a marketable use for it. Sometimes, this benefits mankind; sometimes, it leads people to smear their faces with radioactive elements.

The eerie glow of radiation made newly documented elements like radium and polonium seemed like ideal boosters for that healthy glow everyone wants. The mysterious radiation rays were quickly touted as cure for medical ailments and were also used in cosmetics. Radiation was added to face creams, soap, rouge, and powders. For those wanting extra sparkly teeth, there was radioactive toothpaste.

Of course, the downside to these radioactive products was that instead of health, they caused untold numbers of cancers. Sores and hair loss are common side effects of radiation poisoning, as well. Those who worked with radium developed bone necrosis and incurable cancers. This soon put an end to the fad for radioactive products.

8 Lead, Arsenic, And Mercury

Arsenic Complexion Wafers

While today’s must-have is a tan, which suggests we have the leisure to be continually on the beach, in the past, the reverse was the case. To have a tan showed that you spent your days toiling outside. To cultivate a pale face, you needed the money to stay indoors. Or you could take the shortcut of covering your face in white lead, as people have throughout history. The problems with this were not unknown even then. The lead would rot the skin, requiring ever more to be used to cover up the effects of the treatment. The skin would break open as it thinned. Lead also causes aggressiveness, headaches, vomiting, seizures, and eventually death — then you have the perfect pale flesh.

Those wanting to remove spots, freckles, and other skin problems could turn to another dangerous element. “Dr. James P. Campbell’s Safe Arsenic Complexion Wafers” promised to clear the complexion. Ironically, one of the organs hit hardest by arsenic poisoning is the skin. An overdose of arsenic can lead to hair loss, bloody vomit, diarrhea, and convulsions. But at least you won’t have freckles.

While those products are thankfully things of the past, there is a current vogue for everyone to appear with as light skin as possible. Skin lightening products very often contain mercury, an element which can lead to many horrible side effects, especially kidney problems. You may end up with a fashionably Western face but a deeply unfashionable dialysis machine.

7 Bee Stings

You should always be wary of following celebrity advice. Being pretty and a good actor does not make you a doctor. Gwyneth Paltrow has gone on record about her beauty treatments, and one of them has a sting in the tail.

The actress told an interviewer:

I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.

The treatment is painful for Paltrow, but it can be deadly, and not just to the bees. One case of liver failure has been linked to apitherapy.

Those unwilling to be actually stung by bees can simply buy cosmetic products containing the venom. Not that it will do anything except speed the decline in bee populations and your bank balance.

6 Fish Pedicure

Fish Pedicure

Photo credit: BeautySchool.com

Fish aren’t picky eaters. If you dip your toes into a tank of Garra fish, they will quickly dart in and nibble off the dead skin from even the smelliest feet. They are toothless and usually stop at eating the tough outer skin, but there are reports of them taking their feeding frenzy too far and causing bleeding. While the risks of getting an infection from the fish is thought to be very low, there are dangers to dangling your feet in water used by both fish and other clients. Fungal infections could easily spread, and bacteria in the fish tank could cause boils.

Leaving aside the “ick” factor of being eaten by fish that live solely on other peoples’ stinky feet, some legal areas deem the fish to be unsanitary. One Arizona fish spa was shut down, as cosmetic products had to be disinfected and dried before reuse — obviously not an option with fish.

5 Tapeworm Diets

Losing weight should be easy. If you burn more calories than you consume, your weight goes down. But food is so delicious that many find reducing their caloric intake is too hard to do. So they look for ways to increase their calories burned (other than exercising, obviously).

One way of losing weight is to get yourself a friendly tapeworm to take up residence in your intestines. This worm will eat a portion of your food, and it will grow rather than your waistline. While there is evidence that people in the past sold pills which supposedly contained tapeworms, there are recent cases of people actually going through with it. Tapeworm infections cause weight loss and loss of appetite — but also pain, malnutrition, diarrhea, blindness, convulsions, and death.

4 Placenta

The placenta is an organ that develops in pregnant mammals to filter oxygen and nutrients to embryos and remove waste products. Most animals will eat the placenta after birth to regain its nutrients. Some humans do, too. Some aren’t content with leaving it at that, though.

Because of their association with youth and birth, some face creams include placenta in the hopes of it passing some of that goodness on to the user. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that they work. The most common form of placenta used comes from sheep, but those with deep pockets and no gag reflex can also buy creams with human placenta.

While placenta may not do much for the face, the side effects can be alarming. Its use in hair products has caused girls as young as 14 months old to begin to develop sexually due to the level of hormones it contains. Stopping use of the products reversed the effects.

3 Snails

Snail Treatment

Photo credit: Dennis Gray/AP via The Guardian

Snail facials are a beauty treatment in which live snails glide across your face. The trail of gel they leave behind is said to fight the signs of aging. Snails have been used for thousands of years to treat inflammation, so there may be something to it. Snail facial specialists say they reduce scars, acne, and stretch marks. There is no scientific confirmation of this, however — so perhaps wait before you plop some snails on your face.

For those who cannot stand the idea of snails rasping at their skin with their radula (a toothed, tongue-like structure) you can buy creams that contain snail gel. The snails exude the gel, which is said to be more effective when they are stressed. There is no information on how the makers of snail gel cream go about stressing out their snails, but it’s unlikely these creams are animal-friendly.

2 Bull Semen

In the crowded marketplace of cosmetics, you need something that separates you from the competition. One way of doing that is to reveal that the magic ingredient in your face mask and hair conditioner is bull semen.

The inventor of the semen hair treatment had been looking for a high-protein recipe and apparently thought the best option would be bull sperm. She comforts her customers by saying, “It really works. The semen is refrigerated before use and doesn’t smell. It leaves your hair looking wonderfully soft and thick.”

If you want the glamorous look without the mental images, Imprivo makes a range of products containing the coyly named BSP (Bull Seminal Plasma).

1 Foreskin Facials

“As smooth as a baby’s buttocks” is a common expression. Some cosmetics companies have taken that cliche and run with it. Taking the foreskins left over after baby boys are circumcised, they have turned human flesh into cash in the bank.

There are face creams which use the cells from foreskins to enrich their products with growth factors, collagen, and other proteins that are claimed to reverse the signs of aging. Because the foreskin contains stem cells, a single one can be grown in the lab to produce enough cells for thousands of treatments. This has not reduced the controversy around using them as an ingredient, especially among those who see circumcision as a form of genital mutilation.

For those who want the direct benefits of stem cells, it is now possible to have cells derived from foreskins injected into your face. The fibroblast cells reinforce the structure of the skin, it is claimed, and users say they detect improvements in their appearance. With each vial of cells costing around $1,000, though, you might hope for more dramatic results.

10 Places You Would Never Expect To Find Bacteria

10 Places You Would Never Expect To Find Bacteria

Humans share the Earth with a plethora of different bacteria, distant relatives of ours who inhabit a variety of different environments and perform countless functions — some of which we welcome, and some of which we fight against. It could be said, however, that it is the bacteria who are nice enough to share the Earth with us, considering there are roughly 5×10^30 bacteria on the planet — forming a total mass greater than that of all plants and animals combined.

We tend to think of them existing only in places where other life forms can be found, such as in our gut, the kitchen, forests, and ponds. However, plenty of bacteria require no such environment and can be found in some truly obscure and surprising places on this planet and beyond.

10Inside Solid Rock


It was long believed that one of the requirements for life to exist was sunlight. Even organisms not directly exposed to the Sun (such as those residing in your gut) would consume organic matter that at one point was synthesized with the help of sunlight.

Recently, however, this dogma has been called into question. A team of scientists investigating a South African gold mine has discovered bacteria over 1.5 miles below the ground that seem to subsist purely off of radioactive waste.

The uranium, thorium, and potassium in the surrounding rock formation seem to have just the right amount of energy to break down water molecules, which leads to the production of hydrogen peroxide and sulfates. The radiation breaks down the water molecules into two atoms of hydrogen and a single atom of oxygen, which combine with other water molecules to form hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide then reacts with pyrite (fool’s gold) to produce sulfate ions, which the bacteria feast upon with great relish.

And these lonely microbes seem to be in no rush to leave their rocky fortress. Whereas much of the bacteria we encounter on a daily basis — such as E. coli — divides almost daily, this rock-dwelling bacteria is estimated to divide between once a year and once every 300 years.

9The Cleanest Place On Earth: Nasa ‘Clean Rooms’


Photo credit: NASA

If you have ever given your kitchen or bathroom a thorough cleaning, you doubtless have walked away with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing that any living microbes that once were there have been eviscerated. Now imagine you work for NASA, and your job is to make the “clean rooms” (where everyone is required to walk around in triple-layer, sterilized body suits) as clean as possible. And NASA wants them really clean.

These rooms are what “hospital operating rooms are to patients,” says Mike Weiss, Hubble’s technical deputy program manager at Goddard. “Surgeons wear sterile gowns, gloves and masks during surgery, and operating rooms must be kept free of germs to keep patients healthy. In our case, [the spacecraft] is the patient.”

Anyone who enters must pass through a series of “lobbies,” the first of which contains special adhesive to remove dirt particles from shoes, the second of which provides a high-pressure air shower, and the third of which forces you to cover yourself from head to toe in protective clothing.

This painstaking procedure made it all the more upsetting when an entirely new genus of bacteria was discovered in not one, but two NASA clean rooms. Named Tersicoccus phoenicis (“Tersi” is Latin for clean), this bacterium has earned a reputation for outwitting the most intense industrial cleaners and sterilization techniques.

Scientists at NASA make sure to keep samples of this resilient creature on hand to compare it to any potential bacteria brought back from space.

8Sheets Of Ice


Photo credit: U.S. Ice Drilling

When we think of ice, we inevitably think of cold, which brings with it very little movement and therefore very little life. The freezer is where we put food for long-term storage not because we necessarily want to make more room in the refrigerator but because we want to slow down the various chemical processes that will cause the food to spoil.

This is why it is all the more surprising that large populations of bacteria have found a long-term home in some of the world’s largest glaciers — with some bacterial strains lasting for millions of years.

The Transantarctic Mountains in Antarctica contain the oldest known ice on Earth and are home to microbes that have lived there for millions of years. It is estimated that the entire microbial cell population encased in the ice sheets of Antarctica outnumber the human population of Earth more than 10,000 times over.

And now that the Earth is warming and the ice is melting, these little guys may soon be liberated into the ocean, where they will have to adapt to an unfamiliar but perhaps more hospitable environment.

7Boiling Water


Photo credit: CDC

Every boy scout knows that if you come across a natural source of water, the water must be boiled before consumption to remove any harmful bacteria. Be careful, however, the next time you take solace in this technique, since some bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, can survive in boiling water.

Clostridium botulinum, which is responsible for botulism (a serious paralytic condition caused by a nerve toxin that can enter the body either through food intake or an open wound), prefers environments with relatively little oxygen, which is why it can grow and live in the most unnerving places, such as in your camp kettle or along the inside of a sealed can.

Since a botulism diagnosis often comes with aggressive antibody treatment and a trip to the hospital, it is best to use bleach, sodium hydroxide, and extreme temperatures (around 120 degrees Celsius) when trying to eradicate this pesky beast.

6The Lowest Place On Earth


Photo credit: Scientific American

Any ocean enthusiast knows that the Mariana Trench is the most mysterious place in the ocean and perhaps the planet. Located to the east of the Philippines and north of New Guinea, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of any ocean on Earth, with a maximum depth of roughly 11,000 meters. The search for new forms of life at the bottom of this black, mostly inaccessible cavern has been a major goal for oceanographers for years, and now, in the Challenger Deep (the lowest point of the Mariana Trench), researchers have found heterotrophic bacteria, which can sustain themselves in part from tiny bits of organic compounds found in particles that fall from high above.

Bacteria found in the ocean past the reach of sunlight (beginning around 100 meters below the surface) must break down compounds such as sulfur and ammonia for sustenance, which makes the presence of these heterotrophic bacteria all the more mysterious.

5The Upper Atmosphere


Photo credit: Gary Meek

Usually, when we think of bacteria, we think of them living somewhere in the animal kingdom, coexisting with and in some cases feasting off of organic matter. This is not the case, however, when it comes to a large microbe population that was recently discovered in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Although there are no life forms in our atmosphere on which to feast, there is plenty of carbon, which provides these gravity-defying bacteria with sustenance, even at altitudes of six miles or more above sea level. In fact, bacteria may make up roughly 20 percent of the small particles in the upper atmosphere at any given time.

Although it is not entirely clear how these bacteria made the unlikely journey into the atmosphere, scientists believe that high winds and alternating atmospheric pressures drove the little critters into the heavens, much like the process by which salt and dirt arrive in the same place.

4Your Eyeball


Although it is common knowledge that the human body contains multitudes of bacteria (in fact, a human body contains more bacterial cells than human cells), we like to think of these friendly bacteria as residing peacefully in our gut — carrying out their end of a symbiotic relationship by aiding in the digestion of food, as well as producing chemicals that help us squeeze every last drop of energy out of what we consume.

What we do not like to think about, however, is that a more sinister type of bacterium resides on our eyeball, specifically the conjunctiva — a mucus membrane covering the sclera of the eyeball. The bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeaehas seem to have an affinity for the human eyeball, and although our tears do their best to keep these little critters at bay by dispatching enzymes such as lysozyme, these defenses are not enough to rid the eyeball of them completely.

And yes, these bacteria are the same ones responsible for the chlamydia and gonorrhea infections, respectively. Best to keep those eyes clean.



If you are a seafood lover, you have inevitably fielded warnings about eating too much fish, due to a widespread fear that you may be ingesting too much mercury. A major culprit when it comes to mercury in fish may be a recently discovered strain of Antarctic bacteria. The bacterium, named Nitrospinia, seems to have an affinity for converting mercury to methylmercury, which is far more dangerous than mercury and has been known to cause developmental problems in children. After ingesting and converting the mercury into methylmercury, these pesky bacteria are consumed by a variety of different fish, which then end up on your dinner plate.

And since many of our most beloved fish dishes come from the Southern Ocean, this could be a major problem for seafood lovers, especially since more commercial fishermen are heading south to chase after depleting fish supplies.

2Your Glabela


Photo credit: Eye of Science/SPL

The glabela, more commonly known as the smooth section of skin between your eyebrows and above the nose, may seem like an unlikely home for bacteria since it lacks significant protection from the environment. However, being exposed for all the world to see is no deterrent for an especially monstrous-looking bacteria named Demodex folliculorum (also known as eyelash mites), which spend their days roaming around your forehead in search of carbon-containing matter. While these and the more commonly known Propionibacteria bacteria are generally harmless, they can occasionally cause an infection that leads to acne vulgaris. So the next time you discover a pimple between your eyes, you can blame these little guys.

1The Dead Sea


Photo credit: Hydra Institute

Given its name, the Dead Sea is understandably one of the last places one would go in search of life. This would be misguided, however, since although the extraordinarily salty water of the Dead Sea is inhospitable to most forms of life, some bacteria have discovered a loophole: freshwater springs.

Just within the last decade, several new forms of life have been discovered at the bottom of the Dead Sea — bacterial life that has become accustomed to both extreme salinity and fresh water (a necessary prerequisite for living in the Dead Sea, since the salinity of the water fluctuates so rapidly).

These prokaryote bacteria cling to the rocks at the bottom of the Dead Sea, as giant underwater craters shoot fresh water and sulfides into the surrounding water — forming a thin white film and proving wrong the notion that bacteria can only either survive in fresh or salt water environments, not both.

10 Mutant Genes That Could Make You Superhuman

10 Mutant Genes That Could Make You Superhuman

At some point, everyone has fantasized about being a superhero. Sure, the tights may be snug in some awkward places, but that’s a small price to pay to wield amazing powers against the forces of evil. Well, luckily, those dreams may be close to becoming reality. Geneticists are tracking down specific mutations responsible for some truly incredible abilities. From immunity to electricity to Hulk-like strength, these tremendous talents may soon be as normal as eating and breathing.

10Unbreakable Bones


A broken bone is a fantastic way to ruin your entire day (your entire several months, really). Despite being the hardest substance in the human body, bone is definitely not invulnerable. Unless you find yourself with an extremely rare mutation of the LRP5 gene, that is.

LRP5 is responsible for the density of your bones. Researchers have known for a while that mutations in this gene can lead to lower bone density, or osteoporosis. However, it has recently been found that they can lead to the opposite effect as well. One Connecticut family has been discovered to have LRP5 mutations that give their bones such incredible density that they are nearly unbreakable. Not one of them has ever suffered a broken bone. Focused on the spine, skull, and pelvis, this increased strength gives members of the family the strongest known skeletons on Earth.

Researchers believe this mutation causes too many “bone-growth signals” to be sent, leading to beefier bones and a potential superhero. It is hoped that one day, a controlled form of the mutant gene could be used to end bone disease.

9Super Speed


We all have the natural ability to run, if not always the will. Yet some people seem naturally better at this incredibly basic skill. Sure, it could be down to training or steroids, but geneticists believe the answer is nowhere near that.

It turns out naturally gifted runners may be more fit for the X-Men than the Olympics. The gene ACTN3 is present within every human body, but a small percentage of them mutate to help us produce a very special substance. This protein, alpha-actinin-3, is responsible for controlling the fast-twitch muscle fibers that allow us to run. Increased amounts lead to more explosive bursts of muscle power, which translate into better performance in all kinds of sports, especially sprinting.

Interestingly, there are two versions of this mutant gene, and athletes with both have been found to perform consistently better than their conventionally chromosomed counterparts. We may be on the brink of a new age of performance enhancement.

8Poison Immunity


Photo credit: Wikimedia

When it comes to poison, the human body gets very fragile very quickly; a single drop of something like cyanide or ricin, and it’s all over. Whether accidentally ingested or snuck into our food, these sinister substances are hard to defend against.

But for millennia, the villagers of San Antonio de los Cobres in Argentina have been sipping mountain water laced with 80 times the safe level of arsenic. And, surprisingly, there are still villagers in San Antonio de los Cobres. Despite extreme daily exposure to the deadly metal, residents carry on completely unaffected. This is all down to a mutant gene that has been honed by thousands of years of natural selection.

AS3MT is the name of this South American savior. It allows the body to process arsenic rather than let it build to dangerous levels, so owners of these microscopic mutants can chow down on as much of the stuff as they want. It is estimated that a total of 6,000 people now possess this gene.



The life of a superhero is not an easy one. Working your mundane cover job during the day and prowling the rooftops by night doesn’t leave a lot of time for sleep. But if you’re lucky, your host of mutant abilities includes short-sleeping.

The genes involved in the process of sleep are many and incredibly complex. One, however, stands out to researchers. DEC2 is responsible for regulating the amount of sleep we need each night to properly function. For most of us it demands a full eight hours or more, but about 5 percent of the population enjoy a slightly different mutant version.

Tests on a mother-daughter pair with the mutation have revealed an ability to sleep just 4–6 hours each night. Mere mortals would begin to experience negative effects after just a few days of this, but these mutants function completely normally. Researchers are hopefully working to replicate this mutation to allow crime fighters and the exceptionally busy to waste less time unconscious.

6Shock-Proof Skin


Photo credit: odditycentral.com

Electricity is one of the most dangerous things we encounter each day. We tend not to think much about it because we’re so used to it, but we are almost always surrounded by more than enough power to kill us in an instant. That’s never bothered Serbian man Slavisa Pajkic, though, whose unique genetic makeup makes him largely immune to electricity.

The typical human is covered with millions of sweat glands, which normally give electric shocks a nice wet path directly into our skin. Pajkic, on the other hand, has no sweat or salivary glands due to a rare genetic condition. This means electricity has no way of penetrating his body, so it skims harmlessly over his skin into whatever he happens to be holding.

This unique talent has earned Pajkic the title of “Battery Man.” Able to cook food, boil water, and even set things on fire by passing electricity over his body, he has set a handful of records and appeared on several TV shows. He also uses his gift to treat (or at least claim to treat them) various ailments like migraines and back pain in his native Serbia.

5Super Partying


Photo credit: Wikimedia

The lifestyle of rich and famous musicians is notorious for being pretty hard on the body. Countless lives have been snuffed out prematurely due to the stresses of constant drug and alcohol use. But bizarrely, one of the men associated most strongly with this life of dangerous excess has been going strong for decades.

Rocker Ozzy Osbourne’s ironically long life may be due to more than simple luck. Researchers analyzing the legendary musician’s genetic code have recently discovered a staggering number of mutant genes. Most of them have to do with the way the body breaks down alcohol and various other chemicals. For instance, a mutation of the ADH4 gene gives him increased amounts of proteins that remove alcohol from the body. Genetic variations like this help explain Osbourne’s continued existence despite the “swimming pools of booze . . . cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol” he has admitted to indulging in over the years.

4Metal Munching


Photo via modernnotion.com

There comes a moment in every superhero’s career when defeat looks certain. The villain’s doomsday device is ticking away, and all hope seems lost. But luckily, the hero still has a genetic variation or two up his sleeve. He grabs it, adds a dash of salt, and crams it down his mighty throat. The day is saved.

But only if his name is Michel Lotito. This phenomenal French showman spent his life chowing down on absolutely everything as the amazing Monsieur Mangetout — Mr. Eats-All. Televisions, shopping carts, beds, and even an entire airplane made their way through his super-powered stomach. Swallowing shards of glass and twisted scraps of metal would of course kill most people, but Lotito survived his deadly eating habits for decades.

It is believed that Lotito’s stomach-turning talent was the result of a very specific genetic defect. Born with bizarrely thick lining in his stomach and intestines, his system was durable enough to avoid the inevitable shredding most people would experience. A few gulps of lubricating mineral oil were the only safety precaution he required.

3Super Flexibility


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Inhuman flexibility has been a comic book staple for years. This is mostly because the ability to warp the body into bizarre and amazing shapes is dramatic and visually stunning. But its pop culture popularity may lead some to think of this talent as mere fiction. It isn’t.

For those born with the genetic condition known as Marfan Syndrome, tendons and ligaments may as well be rubber bands. Mutations in the gene responsible for producing the protein fibrillin-1 cause the body to create connective tissues with superhuman flexibility. Selectively dislocating joints to twist the body into shapes worthy of Mr. Fantastic is nothing for the typical Marfan sufferer.

Of course, this gift comes with a price. Sufferers may develop unnaturally long limbs and facial disfigurements. Problems with the skeleton, nervous system, and even the heart can also arise from the genetic defect, some of which can be fatal.

2Super Strength


Super strength is the quintessential super power; it has been the go-to ability for comic book writers since Superman first flew onto the scene. The raw power it represents is fascinating, leaving many yearning for rippling muscles and brute strength with absolutely no effort. Well good news: It’s possible. Bad news: You have to be born with it.

For a lucky few born with mutations of the gene responsible for producing the protein myostatin, the dream of effortless abs is a reality. Myostatin tells the body to stop producing muscle when enough has been created, but defective genes keep it from being made. This means muscles automatically grow to twice the average size, while fat deposits are halved.

A handful of people around the world have this condition, and scientists are trying to harness its power. It is believed that by studying these mutant genes, we may one day be able to cure muscle conditions like muscular dystrophy.

1Immunity To Pain


Pain. Whether by banging your toe on the corner of your bed, cutting yourself shaving, or walking into a door, we all experience this annoying sensation almost daily. Pharmaceutical companies make billions offering us ways to avoid it, but the secret to true painlessness may be hidden in the garbled genes of a very rare few.

The SCN11A gene determines the amount of sodium in the body’s cells. This might not sound terribly impressive, until you realize that nerve cells use sodium to decide when to send a pain signal. With the mutant gene lowering sodium levels, nerve cells never have enough to send those signals, rendering the body completely immune to pain.

Bizarrely, however, people with this seemingly enviable condition are prone to broken bones and accidental self-mutilation. Without pain to tell them not to do something, they have a tendency to injure themselves, especially as infants. Still, their mutant genes are incredibly rare and valuable, as they may be the key to revolutionary new pain medications.

10 Facts About Female Genital Mutilation That Will Horrify You

10 Facts About Female Genital Mutilation That Will Horrify You

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a barbaric practice commonly found in Africa, Asia, and several countries in the Middle East. It is the cutting of the clitoris, removal of some or all of the labia minora, or stitching shut of the labia majora. This is conducted to control the woman, to keep her from being sexually promiscuous, to prepare her for marriage, and for religious purposes.

Many who preform and even receive these acts see nothing wrong with the practice. However, this procedure is extremely invasive, controlling, and often deadly, as well as a massive violation of human rights.

10The Health Risks Are Severe And Often Deadly


Photo credit: libertygb.org.uk

There are zero health benefits from female genital mutilation, only health risks that are often deadly. Some of the immediate results of female genital mutilation are severe pain, excessive bleeding, the swelling of the genital tissue, fever, infections, tearing of the genital area, problems with urination, inability for the tissue to properly heal, injury to the surrounding genital tissue, and in severe cases shock and death.

There are also long-term consequences of this act, if the woman is able to make it through the immediate complications, such as urinary problems (including urinary tract infections and painful urination), vaginal problems (including discharge, itching, and bacterial vaginosis), scar tissue problems, extreme pain and even tearing during intercourse, difficulty with intercourse, tearing during childbirth, the need to resuscitate the child after birth, and infant death. Furthermore, there are psychological problems that may follow female genital mutilation such as depression, low self-worth, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, sexual dysfunctions, difficulty becoming aroused, sexual dysfunction due to trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, other stress disorders, and many other complications.

9Newborns To Young Adults Are Most Affected


Photo credit: AFP

The most common age of a young woman undergoing female genital mutilation is 7–10 years old, but it occurs to children of a much younger age in several countries. Many women who have been put through the process have it done to their children due to social pressure and the inability to recognize the negative impact of the practice. It is stated that it’s done at such a young age to “reduce the trauma to the children.”

Many girls 14 or older who have not undergone female genital mutilation may still be at risk. Women who have daughters will often find themselves conforming to the social pressures to have their daughters cut to find a husband, even if the mother is against the practice and has not had the procedure herself. Many young adults may also find themselves undergoing the procedure in their late teens to be able to find a husband, as many husbands in these countries are more attracted to those who do have this done.

8There Are Four Types


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Type 1 is clitoridectomy. This consists of the removal of the clitoral hood and the partial or full removal of the clitoris.

Type 2 is an excision. This is where the clitoris and labia minora are partially or even fully removed. This may or may not come with the excision of the labia majora.

Type 3 is the most severe. This is referred to as infibulation or pharaonic type. This consists of narrowing the vaginal orifice by creating a seal to cover the vaginal opening by cutting and arranging the labia minora and/or the labia majoria. This may or may not include the removal of the clitoris. The process of repositioning consists of stitching the cut areas together for a set amount of time, usually done by binding the girl’s legs together to allow scar tissue to build up and close the wound, creating a seal. This is only opened due to penetrative sexual intercourse, through surgery, or through tearing during childbirth following intercourse.

Type 4 is a general classification for all other types of female genital mutilation for non-medical purposes. This may include pricking, piercing, incisions, scraping, and cauterization. There are also a variety of less widely practiced form of female genital mutilation, including those done to aboriginal women in Australia by use of a certain kind of string, mentioned later in the list.

7There Are Cases In The United States


Photo credit: New York Times

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study in response to the advocacy of Equality Now and Same Hands for Girls in January 2016. This study found that an estimated 513,000 girls and women had undergone or been at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation.

In addition, a study by the Population Reference Bureau conducted in February 2015 estimated that 507,000 girls and women living in the US are at risk of or have been subjected to female genital mutilation. This just proves that we need more information about the prevalence of female genital mutilation in the United States.

Although female genital mutilation has been a federal crime since 1996, there are no specific laws against them in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

6Countries Are Trying To Get FGM Medicalized


Photo credit: UNDP

In many countries where female genital mutilation is commonly practiced, a growing number of health care providers perform FGM, as well as supporting the medicalization of it. This would mean that it would become even more common and would be acknowledged as a beneficial medical practice. However, we know that it offers no benefits to the woman.

Many countries practice this through their religion. This is seen often in Muslim counties, where it is claimed that the Quran explicitly refers to female genital mutilation. However, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University condemned this, stating that it was a form of deceit to misguide people who hear this was a practice of the Islamic state.

5A Variety Of Tools Are Used


Photo credit: James Akena/Reuters

The tools used in the procedures of female genital mutilation are not always clean, and usually, the doctors conducting the procedure are not well trained. Dirty scalpels, pieces of glass, razors, small knives, and even sharpened sticks are used in these processes.

Often, opossum string is used, made of opossum hair strands. We see this in cases of FGM in the Pitta-Patta tribe in Australian aboriginals. When a girl reaches puberty, the entire tribe gathers, and an elderly man conducts the procedure. He first enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing downward with his fingers bound in opossum string. Often following is the compulsory intercourse with several men.

4There Are Severe Sexual Consequences


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Women who have undergone female genital mutilation often have a harder time having an orgasm, they have a less active sex drive, and often feel that they are not able to sexually please their partners. It is also more difficult for their vagina to self-lubricate during sex, which often leads to tearing and painful intercourse. Not only that — childbirth can cause the closed opening to tear, causing hemorrhaging, tearing even of the surrounding area, and even death to the child.

3There Are Also Severe Psychological Consequences


Photo credit: xinhuanet.com

There are a multitude of psychological health consequences for a woman who undergoes female genital mutilation. She may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, other related stress disorders, depression, personality disorders, and a low sense of self-worth.

Data from a study conducted in 2010, of women in Northern Iraq who underwent female genital mutilation, demonstrates this. 45.6 percent or the women experienced some form of an anxiety disorder, and 13.9 percent were shown to be suffering from some type of personality disorder.

2Female Genital Mutilation Is A Massive Violation Of Human Rights


Photo credit: UNICEF

This seems like a fairly obvious statement, but many people in the countries that practice female genital mutilation feel otherwise. Meanwhile, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Human Rights Committee have all been actively working to fight against it, condemning the practice altogether.

The practice has been identified as torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of women and girls, and violating the covenant on civil and political rights as well as covenant on economic, cultural, and social rights of women. It also violates a convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a convention on the rights of the child, and a convention relating to the status of refugees and its protocol relating to the status of refugees.

In regard to children undergoing female genital mutilation, it is a permanent and potentially life-changing operation that cannot be called informed or free of coercion. Because of the vulnerability of the child and their need for care and support, human rights laws grant them special protections through The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1Numerous Human Rights Campaigns Fight To End Female Genital Mutilation


Photo credit: Reuters

There are difficulties when it comes to stopping female genital mutilation. However, numerous human rights campaigns work to educate people about the negative effects of female genital mutilation, to create an understanding of the impact it is having. Some of these sites include End FGM European Network, Equality Now, Network Against Female Genital Mutilation, and The Orchid Project to name a few.

With knowledge comes power. If we educate ourselves on the issues that negativity impact these women and spread the message, we can help to free these women and put a stop to the practice altogether.

Eli is passionate about discussing controversial issues and starting a dialogue till every person in the debate has their opinion heard. His life-long goal is to become a well-established author and make a difference in the world, as cheesy as it may sound.

Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders

Mental disorders effect millions of people in the world and can lead to years of psychotherapy. In some cases, the psychological problem suffered is extremely rare or bizarre. This is a list of the ten most bizarre mental disorders.


Stockholm Syndrome


Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of sympathy, loyalty or even voluntary compliance with the hostage taker, regardless of the risk in which the hostage has been placed. The syndrome is also discussed in other cases, including those of wife-beating, rape and child abuse.

The syndrome is named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal, refusing to testify against them. Later, after the gang were tried and sentenced to jail, one of them married a woman who had been his hostage.

A famous example of Stockholm syndrome is the story of Patty Hearst, a millionaire’s daughter who was kidnapped in 1974, seemed to develop sympathy with her captors, and later took part in a robbery they were orchestrating.


Lima Syndrome


The exact opposite of Stockholm syndrome – this is where the hostage takers become more sympathetic to the plights and needs of the hostages.

It is named after the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Lima, Peru where 14 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took hundreds of people hostage at a party at the official residence of Japan’s ambassador to Peru. The hostages consisted of diplomats, government and military officials, and business executives of many nationalities who happened to be at the party at the time. It began on December 17, 1996 and ended on April 22, 1997.

Within a few days of the hostage crisis, the militants had released most of the captives, with seeming disregard for their importance, including the future President of Peru, and the mother of the current President.

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, all remaining hostages were freed by a raid by Peruvian commandos, although one hostage was killed.


Diogenes Syndrome


Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher, who lived in a wine barrel and promoted ideas of nihilism and animalism. Famously, when he was asked by Alexander the Great what he wanted most in the world, he replied, “For you to get out of my sunlight!”

Diogenes syndrome is a condition characterised by extreme self neglect, reclusive tendencies, and compulsive hoarding, sometimes of animals. It is found mainly in old people and is associated with senile breakdown.

The syndrome is actually a misnomer since Diogenes lived an ascetic and transient life, and there are no sources to indicate that he neglected is own hygiene.


Paris Syndrome


Paris syndrome is a condition exclusive to Japanese tourists and nationals, which causes them to have a mental breakdown while in the famous city. Of the millions of Japanese tourists that visit the city every year, around a dozen suffer this illness and have to be returned to their home country.

The condition is basically a severe form of ‘culture shock’. Polite Japanese tourists who come to the city are unable to separate their idyllic view of the city, seen in such films as Amelie, with the reality of a modern, bustling metropolis.

Japanese tourists who come into contact with, say, a rude French waiter, will be unable to argue back and be forced to bottle up their own anger which eventually leads to a full mental breakdown.

The Japanese embassy has a 24hr hotline for tourists suffering for severe culture shock, and can provide emergency hospital treatment if necessary.


Stendhal Syndrome


Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly ‘beautiful’ or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

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Jerusalem Syndrome


The Jerusalem syndrome is the name given to a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by, or lead to, a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination, but has affected Jews and Christians of many different backgrounds.

The condition seems to emerge while in Jerusalem and causes psychotic delusions which tend to dissipate after a few weeks. Of all the people who have suffered this spontaneous psychosis, all have had a history of previous mental illness, or where deemed not to have been ‘well’ before coming to the city.


Capgras Delusion


The Capgras delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that an acquaintance, usually a spouse or other close family member, has been replaced by an identical looking impostor.

It is most common in patients with schizophrenia, although it occur in those with dementia, or after a brain injury.

One case report said the following:

Mrs. D, a 74-year old married housewife, recently discharged from a local hospital after her first psychiatric admission, presented to our facility for a second opinion. At the time of her admission earlier in the year, she had received the diagnosis of atypical psychosis because of her belief that her husband had been replaced by another unrelated man. She refused to sleep with the impostor, locked her bedroom and door at night, asked her son for a gun, and finally fought with the police when attempts were made to hospitalize her. At times she believed her husband was her long deceased father. She easily recognized other family members and would misidentify her husband only.

The paranoia induced by this condition has made it a common tool in science fiction books and films, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Total Recall and The Stepford Wives.


Fregoli Delusion


The exact opposite of the Capgras delusion – the Fregoli delusion is a rare disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise.

The condition is named after the Italian actor Leopoldo Fregoli who was renowned for his ability to make quick changes of appearance during his stage act.

It was first reported 1927 by two psychiatrists who discussed the case study of a 27 year old woman who believed that she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets.”


Cotard Delusion


The Cotard delusion is a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost their blood or internal organs. Rarely, it can include delusions of immortality.

One case study said the following:

[The patient’s] symptoms occurred in the context of more general feelings of unreality and being dead. In January, 1990, after his discharge from hospital in Edinburgh, his mother took him to South Africa. He was convinced that he had been taken to hell (which was confirmed by the heat), and that he had died of septicaemia (which had been a risk early in his recovery), or perhaps from AIDS (he had read a story in The Scotsman about someone with AIDS who died from septicaemia), or from an overdose of a yellow fever injection. He thought he had “borrowed my mother’s spirit to show me round hell”, and that he was asleep in Scotland.

It is named after Jules Cotard, a French neurologist who first described the condition, which he called “le délire de négation” (“negation delirium”), in a lecture in Paris in 1880.


Reduplicative Paramnesia


Reduplicative paramnesia is the delusional belief that a place or location has been duplicated, existing in two or more places simultaneously, or that it has been ‘relocated’ to another site. For example, a person may believe that they are in fact not in the hospital to which they were admitted, but an identical-looking hospital in a different part of the country, despite this being obviously false, as one case study reported:

A few days after admission to the Neurobehavioural Center, orientation for time was intact, he could give details of the accident (as related to him by others), could remember his doctors’ names and could learn new information and retain it indefinitely. He exhibited, however, a distinct abnormality of orientation for place. While he quickly learned and remembered that he was at the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital (also known as the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital), he insisted that the hospital was located in Taunton, Massachusetts, his home town. Under close questioning, he acknowledged that Jamaica Plain was part of Boston and admitted it would be strange for there to be two Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospitals. Nonetheless, he insisted that he was presently hospitalized in a branch of the Jamaica Plain Veterans Hospital located in Taunton. At one time he stated that the hospital was located in the spare bedroom of his house.

The term ‘reduplicative paramnesia’ was first used in 1903 by the Czechoslovakian neurologist Arnold Pick to describe a condition in a patient with suspected Alzheimer’s disease who insisted that she had been moved from Pick’s city clinic, to one she claimed looked identical but was in a familiar suburb. To explain the discrepancy she further claimed that Pick and the medical staff worked at both locations

10 Ancient Prosthetics

10 Ancient Prosthetics

Prosthetics are not a modern invention. For millennia, physicians and craftsmen have built replacements for body parts that people have lost through injury, amputation, or disease.

Today, few ancient examples survive because their construction of wood and organic material decayed quickly. Of those that remain, many are elegantly engineered machines, resembling cybernetics more than peg legs. Other ancient prostheses are shrouded in mystery, and our knowledge of them has only come through legend.

10 Cairo Toe


Photo credit: Archaeology

Dated between 950 and 710 BC, the “Cairo toe” is the oldest prosthesis in the world. Archaeologists discovered this artificial big toe on a female mummy near Luxor.

The Cairo toe is composed of leather, molded and stained wood, and thread. Ancient Egyptians frequently created false body parts for burials. However, tests on toeless volunteers revealed that this ancient prosthesis was functional as well. It made walking in Egyptian-style sandals significantly easier, and the lack of pressure points made it comfortable for extended use.

Archaeologists have discovered other ancient prosthetic toes in Egyptian graves. One dated to 600 BC is composed of a paper-mache mixture known as cartonnage. Experiments revealed that this style of prosthesis was uncomfortable and could not bend. However, they made excellent cosmetic replacements for missing digits.

9 Golden Eye


Photo credit: sott.net

In 1998, archaeologists unearthed the oldest artificial eye in the world. Dated to 5,000 years ago, the prosthesis was discovered at the necropolis of Shahr-i-Sokhta in the Sistan desert on the Iran-Afghan border.

A half-sphere with a diameter of just over 2.5 centimeters (1 in), the lightweight eye was made from bitumen paste. Intricate engravings create a central iris bursting with rays of golden light. Traces of gold are still present, suggesting that the eye was once cloaked in the material.

Between 25 and 30 years old, the woman who wore the eye was nearly 183 centimeters (6′) tall, making her a giant in 2900 BC. She was also buried with an ornate bronze hand mirror.

Initially, the research team thought that the artificial eye had been placed in the grave after her death. However, a microscopic investigation revealed an imprint on her left eye socket from extended contact with the prosthesis.

8 Gotz Of The Iron Hand


Photo credit: coilhouse.net

Gottfried “Gotz” von Berlichingen was an infamous German mercenary with a prosthetic arm that matched his fearsome reputation. During the 1504 siege of Landshut, Gotz lost his right arm to a cannon blast. He survived and commissioned armor with an artificial iron limb.

Internal gears controlled the articulated fingers of the iron prosthesis. The new limb was strong enough to handle a sword and delicate enough to clutch a quill. For 40 years, “Gotz of the Iron Hand” continued to terrorize the German countryside.

Born nearly 500 years ago in Wurttemberg, Gotz was a knight of the Holy Roman Emperor but spent much of his time robbing merchants and noblemen. He is now remembered as a Robin Hood–like figure. Gotz’s groundbreaking prosthesis is celebrated by Germans as a symbol of their national ingenuity.

7 Hoofed Prosthetic Leg


Photo credit: Live Science

In 2007, archaeologists unearthed a 2,200-year-old hoofed artificial leg in Turpan, China. The prosthesis was attached to a man between 50 and 65 years old.

His patella, femur, and tibia were fused together at an 80-degree angle, making it impossible to walk normally. The prosthetic leg contained a horse foot at the bottom. Wear at the top of the prosthesis revealed that it had been used for years.

Some speculate his knee condition was the result of inflammation. The man once suffered from tuberculosis, which may have resulted in bony growth with the potential to fuse the knee together.

The bone’s smooth surface suggests that the inflammation stopped years before his death. Modest grave goods indicate that the man was of modest means. Based on radiocarbon dating, experts believe he belonged to the ancient Gushi people, who were conquered by the Han dynasty in the first century BC.

6 Tycho Brahe’s ‘Silver’ Nose


Photo credit: io9.gizmodo.com

Born in 1546, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe made the most accurate measurements of planetary bodies without a telescope and discovered that comets were beyond our atmosphere. In 1566, Brahe lost his nose in a duel with Manderup Parsberg. They had fought over a math formula. For the remainder of his life, Brahe wore a prosthetic nose that historians believed to be made of silver.

When Brahe was exhumed in 2010, researchers discovered that his famous “silver” nose was not really silver. Although they were not able to locate the actual prosthesis, traces of zinc and copper were found in greenish colorations around the nasal cavity.

Researchers concluded that his prosthetic nose must have been made of bronze. Brahe had inherited a vast sum of money from his foster father, Jorgen. With one percent of Denmark’s wealth after his inheritance, Brahe may have had a gold nose for special occasions.

5 Anglesey Leg


Photo credit: waterloo200.org

Sir Henry Paget, Lord of Uxbridge, lost his leg to a cannon blast while commanding the British cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. Uxbridge was carried from the field and survived an above-knee amputation.

During the procedure, which was performed without antiseptics or anesthesia, the stoic nobleman noted simply that “the knives appear somewhat blunt.” Stored at Waterloo, his severed leg was a popular tourist attraction for decades.

James Potts designed the patented “Anglesey Leg” to replace Uxbridge’s missing limb. Most prostheses of the time were peg legs. However, the Anglesey Leg was a work of art.

Constructed of carved fruitwood, the articulated leg was controlled by a delicate system of kangaroo tendon strips, allowing flexibility of the knee, ankle, and toes. Less limber prosthetics frequently got tripped up on cobblestones.

4 Recycled Teeth


Photo credit: The Telegraph

While investigating Tuscany’s San Francesco monastery, archaeologists discovered the earliest known dental prosthesis in the world. The 400-year-old dentures were made of real human teeth — three central incisors and two lateral canines — bound together with a golden band.

The roots of the teeth were partially removed before incisions were made along their base. The teeth were then aligned and secured into place with a gold lamina. A CT scan revealed minute gold pins fixing the teeth to the internal gold band.

Archaeologists have long known about ancient dentures through written accounts. However, this is the first tangible discovery. The teeth were found in a noble family’s tomb containing 100 corpses.

Researchers have been unable to match the dentures to any of the mandibles. The owner remains a mystery. The buildup of plaque and calcium on the dentures suggests that they were worn for an extended period of time, perhaps years.

3 Ancient Austrian Peg Leg


Photo credit: Ancient Origins

In an ancient Austrian cemetery, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a sixth-century warrior who had a prosthetic leg. Experts believe the limb was amputated in battle. The evidence of the ancient prosthesis came from an iron ring above where the foot should have been attached.

Detecting osteoarthritis, experts believe the man once used a crutch. Experts speculate that the prosthesis was a wooden peg leg reinforced with an iron band at the bottom. Stains on the leg bones suggest that leather was used to secure the prosthesis.

Researchers believe the knight was between 35 and 50 years old. He was buried with an ornate brooch and a short sword. A CT scan revealed that he had a healed broken nose, multiple cavities, and arthritis in his hip, shoulder, spine, and left knee. Two lower leg bones contained cavities, suggesting an infection.

Although amputations predate the sixth century, the knight’s mid-bone severing remains unique.

2 Barbarossa’s Silver Arm


Photo credit: Ancient Origins

In the 16th century, the infamous Barbary Coast pirate Aruj Barbarossa was known as “Silver Arm” for his glimmering prosthetic limb. During a battle with the Spanish in Algeria in 1512, he sustained a cannon shot that blew away his left arm above the elbow.

His men carried their unconscious commander to Tunis, where highly skilled Arab surgeons amputated the shattered limb. Then Barbarossa was outfitted with a special prosthesis made of shimmering metal.

Barbarossa eventually became sultan of Algiers. To protect his possession, he allied with the Ottomans, becoming a governor of their new province.

1 Capua Leg


Photo credit: sciencemuseum.org.uk

In 1910, archaeologists unearthed a prosthetic leg in an ancient Roman tomb in Capua, Italy. At the time of its discovery, the Capua leg was the oldest artificial limb in the world.

Dated to 300 BC, the Roman prosthesis was constructed of bronze. Its function was to replace the lower portion of the leg below the knee. Researchers believe that a sheet metal waistband secured the leg in place.

The Capua leg was housed in London at the Royal College of Surgeons until it was destroyed in an air raid during World War II. A copy exists at the Science Museum, London.

Artificial limbs were not commonplace in ancient Rome. However, there were a few famous examples. General Marcus Sergius lost his arm during the Second Punic War. He commissioned an iron replacement. The new limb allowed him to hold a shield and continue engaging in combat.

Abraham Rinquist is the executive director of the Winooski, Vermont, branch of the Helen Hartness Flanders Folklore Society. He is the coauthor of Codex Exotica and Song-Catcher: The Adventures of Blackwater Jukebox.

10 Times Tainted Medical Products Caused Serious Harm

10 Times Tainted Medical Products Caused Serious Harm

The world isn’t perfect, so there will always be a certain number of tragedies that could be prevented. But in some cases, they are caused by glaring errors that could easily be stopped by the slightest degree of attention. When it comes to medicine and treatment, there are many safeguards to keep tainting and infections from happening. But in the following instances, contamination still happened.

10 Antibiotic-Resistant Duodenoscopes


Photo credit: Tech Times

Duodenoscopes are devices that are supposed to drain fluid from pancreatic and bile ducts. However, they are unruly when it comes to sterilization. The scopes have a sort of elevator-like movement which allows them to move within the body, draining fluid as needed. As a result, cleaning the scope is quite laborious. Although any good medical professional would clean such instruments, many did not — which was a mistake that proved deadly.

In 2016, two people in the Chicago area died from a bacterial disease that had been popping up around the United States. From 2012 to 2015, around 250 people were infected with this same illness, which had resulted from a flaw in the same machine: the duodenoscope.

The manufacturers of the scope never actually tested cleaning the device in a real-world setting. In turn, this caused a bacteria to spread that otherwise wouldn’t have developed if the instruments were properly sterilized. The illness that spread was a superbug called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

CRE is an incredibly deadly family of bacteria that kills half of the people who become infected and is resistant to even the most potent antibiotics. CRE and similarly drug-resistant E. coli outbreaks occurred throughout the US and even across Europe in France and Germany. Because they failed to disclose the scope’s failings, the three producers — Olympus, Pentax, and Fujifilm — were investigated by the FDA and hospitals were warned not to use these products.

9 Drug-Laced Diet Supplements


Photo credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via USA Today

In 2013, a dietary supplement known as Dr. Larry’s Tranquility pills were tested by the FDA. The pills were supposed to cause sleep naturally by using substances such as figwort root and licorice. Out of thousands of other pills that claimed similar results, Dr. Larry’s Tranquility pills were tested and found to contain a lot more than claimed. There were powerful prescription drugs in them.

Two powerful sedatives were found in the pills: Thorazine, a potent antipsychotic, and doxepin, an antidepressant and sleeping medication. Dr. Larry was not a doctor at all but a convicted felon. Larry LeGunn, his real name, was a chiropractor whose license was taken away in 2010 for grand theft and insurance fraud.

He was not the only person to use strong drugs to sell diet supplements, though. Jeffrey Bolanos, who had an extensive history with drugs like crack cocaine and methamphetamine, became head of an Arizona company called Beamonstar Products. Three of the company’s sexual enhancement pills actually contained tadalafil, a main ingredient in the prescription drug Cialis. Later, the products were recalled by the company.

In 2009, another company, Kilo Sports, sold “natural” performance-enhancing drugs, only they weren’t natural. They contained steroids, and another was found to have anti-estrogen substances in 2010. Apparently, in 2004, Martin McDermott, the head of Kilo, had several criminal charges filed against him related to felony possession of testosterone, boldenone, and human growth hormones. He apparently used these drugs to illegally “boost” products that he sold over the years.

8 Bayer’s HIV Blood Plasma


Photo via Wikimedia

In 2003, after an investigation by The New York Times, it was shown that Cutter Biological, a unit of pharmaceutical company Bayer, engaged in controversial business practices in the 1980s that resulted in the spread of HIV among hemophiliacs overseas. Allegedly, in response to complaints about a medicine sold by Cutter, they produced a newer, safer one in 1984. The only problem is that they didn’t stop selling the dangerous, older product in other countries.

The product sold was called Factor VIII Concentrate, and it was produced from 10,000 donors’ blood plasma to help with the treatment of hemophiliacs. However, the donor plasma was not tested for HIV at the time since there was very little awareness of the disease. Because of this, the hemophiliacs who used the product contracted HIV.

In February 1984, the product was reformulated and the old product was supposedly taken off the market. However, according to company records, they continued to sell the drug in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and Argentina. Cutter claimed that they did so because customers there doubted the new drug’s effectiveness and a shortage of plasma made creating the new product much harder.

When Hong Kong distributors became interested in the product in late 1984, Cutter told them to use the infected product before using the new formulation. Because of this, around 100 hemophiliacs contracted HIV. The fact that the infected product was still marketed in Asia and other less developed countries caused many customers to accuse Bayer of racial discrimination.

Later, Bayer quietly began to pay off foreign lawsuits related to the product. After the reports became public, Bayer sold their blood plasma business in October 2003.

7 Metal-Tainted Children’s Medication


Photo credit: The New York Times

In May 2009, Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactures a variety of medications including Children’s Tylenol and Children’s Motrin, began to receive complaints about black specks inside bottles of medication. All the medication had been produced from McNeil’s plant in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. When the black specks were examined, they were found to be the metals nickel, iron, and chromium.

The medications were liquid and potentially deadly. In April 2010, Johnson & Johnson began a voluntary recall of the medications. The McNeil plant had been plagued with recalls since 2009, and the FDA later sourced the contamination to machinery used during production.

Despite the company discovering the metal particles around this, they continued to produce and sell liquid medication for several months afterward. In 2009, a death occurred due to the tainted medicine: Joshua Arndt, four years old, died after being given one dose of Children’s Tylenol. Although he was rushed to the emergency room, there was nothing that doctors could do to help him.

In 2012, his father filed a lawsuit. But it was dismissed in 2014 because the two-year statute of limitations had passed. Johnson & Johnson did not go without punishment, though. In 2015, charges were brought against the company because they had knowingly sold the medication months after they learned that it was dangerous.

In the end, they had to pay $25 million to settle their legal problems. As for the McNeil plant where the medication was produced, the entire plant was demolished and rebuilt.

6 Deadly Heparin


In 2008, the blood thinner heparin was in such demand in the United States — around 300,000 doses a day — that producers in China began to engage in increasingly shady practices to meet it. Usually, heparin is produced from pig intestines. But according to the FDA, some Chinese producers were making it from cow and sheep intestines, which allowed for the spread of sicknesses unseen in the past.

According to doctors, the main symptom of the contaminated heparin was dangerously low blood pressure, and it was noticed in hospitals and by patients across the United States. By late 2008, 81 deaths had already been linked to the drug. What made this already disturbing situation even worse was the fact that the bad drug made its way through multiple screenings and finally onto the market.

When Baxter International, the distributor of half of all the heparin in the United States, discovered this, they issued an immediate recall. While officials at first believed that only the United States was affected by these contaminations, it became clear that even more countries had received the bad heparin. Eleven countries soon reported similar cases of heparin causing harm.

The contamination was caused by the chemical oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, which is created from non-pig material. Despite Chinese officials claiming that the heparin was not tainted, the FDA managed to trace the heparin to 12 Chinese producers. After this revelation, reforms were made among these companies.

Even though the FDA had been suspicious about Chinese practices since 2007, it wasn’t until 2012 that they began to create serious guidelines. Around 246 deaths have been traced to the heparin since 2007, and it’s believed that some of the contaminated drug may still be on the market nearly a decade later.

5 Bacteria-Infected IV Bags


In 2011, 19 people at six hospitals in Alabama became ill for a very specific reason: Their IV bags had been infected by Serratia marcescens bacteremia, a type of bacteria which can prove fatal when it enters the bloodstream. Many of the patients infected by the bacteria were high-risk patients who were given intravenous feeding because they were too sick to eat on their own.

The outbreak began at several Birmingham area hospitals in Alabama in March 2011. Soon, 19 people became ill, and nine of them would eventually die. The bacteria caused almost immediate effects upon entering the bloodstream, including blood pressure and temperature changes. However, once the surviving patients were treated, they managed to recover.

But this wasn’t the only time that infections in IV bags would cause illness in patients. In Minnesota, a series of painkiller thefts by nurses at hospitals would eventually cause infections in the patients. At St. Cloud Hospital, several patients who were supposed to get painkillers were actually given saltwater.

This caused rare bacterial infections in 25 patients. Six of them ended up in intensive care, and one died. Blake Zenner, a nurse who stole painkillers from 2010 to 2011, was found to be responsible for the outbreak and was finally caught in 2012.

4 Meningitis And Mold Steroid Shots


Photo credit: Newsweek

In 2011, the New England Compounding Center began sending out shipments of steroids that were infected with meningitis and fungus. Within a year, the CDC would estimate that 14,000 people had been exposed to the infected steroids. Meningitis could be contracted from the shots along with a mold that could incubate for months. The epidemic spread across 16 states and would infect hundreds of people.

The steroid involved was a formulation of methylprednisolone for injection, and it was tainted by a rare black fungus called Exserohilum rostratum that usually only affects plants. It’s so rare in humans that its incubation wasn’t even known at the time of the outbreak. However, within a year, 268 cases of fungal meningitis, three cases of fungal joint infections, and 21 deaths were reported that were related to the steroid shots.

While most of those with fungal infections reported incubation periods of a few weeks to two months, it was also known that the infections could incubate for several months. So even after the steroid shots were recalled, those who took them could still get sick.

A similar outbreak of fungal meningitis occurred in 2002 with the same type of steroids. This taught valuable lessons about the manufacturing of these substances. Without stringent standards when it comes to mixing them, it was found that fungus grows aggressively, which caused the two outbreaks.

In 2013, the number of fungal meningitis cases was 751 and there were 64 deaths. Even a full year after the outbreak, people still required treatment, which shows just how dangerous a lack of attention can be in the medical world.

3 Deadly Dirty Syringes


Photo credit: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune via Pro Publica

Safety with syringes is commonplace for most patients and professionals: Syringes shouldn’t be reused or shared. But what happens when the people who make the syringes have accidentally contaminated them? This occurred in 2007 when over 100 people became sick with bacterial infections related to the use of contaminated saline syringes that were produced by the same company.

To keep such outbreaks from occurring, there are multiple safety checks that should be put into place by companies. But even after that, the FDA itself examines medical products. In the case of the syringes, evidence shows that the FDA failed to catch the contamination.

The syringes, prefilled with saline, were examined by an FDA inspector before they were shipped out in October 2007. According to the report, the inspector found black, brown, and red particles in the syringes but wrote it off as “rust” and said that the factory management had put a plan in place to take care of it.

Apparently, the factory had switched to an unreliable sterilization method around the time of the FDA inspection, but this wasn’t noted, either. Just one week later, a distributor recalled 1.3 million syringes, which should have caused the FDA to launch another thorough inspection. But they didn’t due to understaffing.

When they finally did another inspection of the factory, it was far below standards and was shut down in January 2008. But by then, the damage was done. Over 100 people had become sick from using the bad syringes, and six actually died. In 2016, B. Braun, the company that sold the syringes, agreed to pay $7.8 million in damages.

2 Bacteria-Infected Ultrasound Gel


In 2011, doctors in the emergency room at Beaumont Health Center near Detroit began to notice that large numbers of patients were testing positive for the bacteria P. aeruginosa. This particular sort of bacteria is not normal and usually comes from contamination. They began to investigate and found that all 16 patients had mostly identical histories: They became sick with respiratory illnesses after cardiovascular surgeries.

Ultrasound gel is used to improve images for surgeries or exams. In this case, the patients became sick after imaging gel was used on them for surgery and infected their respiratory tracts. In 2008, a study in Europe showed that many imaging bottles tested positive for contamination when cultures were grown.

When the researchers announced their findings at the 18th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, they warned that bacteria could contaminate gels during the production process. US manufacturers apparently didn’t heed these warnings.

When cultures were grown from the gel bottles used before the outbreak in the United States, they also showed strains of bacteria that came from the manufacturing process. Pharmaceutical Innovations, the New Jersey–based company behind the imaging gel, was raided by US Marshals, and their gel products were seized.

Because imaging gel is so common, it was unknown just how far the contaminated products had been distributed. All the FDA could do was issue a warning that would be known by everyone using the gel because once the gel was applied, the bacteria could infect rapidly. Luckily, no more outbreaks were reported, and new safety standards have since been put in place.

1 Toxic Cough Syrup


This is one of the most tragic stories of tainted medicine because of how widespread it was and the nature of the people it affected: sick patients in the Third World. It all started with chemical production in China where glycerine, one of the main ingredients in cough syrup, would be substituted with the sweet-tasting but highly deadly chemical diethylene glycol to make extra money.

Diethylene glycol is an industrial solvent and one of the main ingredients in antifreeze. When ingested, it causes kidney failure, paralysis, and finally, multiple organ failure.

Several decades ago, medicine produced with diethylene glycol caused over 100 deaths in the United States, which prompted the FDA to pass strict regulations. But in less developed countries, it has, over two decades, been substituted in a variety of syrups and medicines.

This has caused at least eight mass poisonings with one in Panama resulting in 365 reported deaths. A conservative estimate has put deaths in the thousands. Diethylene glycol first appeared in Bangladesh in 1992 when children died after using counterfeit syrups. Later, 88 children died in Haiti.

All the toxic products can be traced back to the Yangtze delta, colloquially known as “chemical country” by the Chinese because it so well-known for chemical production. There, many raw chemicals are produced and diethylene glycol is often sold in place of glycerol.

In many instances where mass deaths were reported from using these products, they went through multiple inspections by distributors. But none of them discovered the truth. Often, those creating the chemicals weren’t even licensed. But in an effort to make a few extra dollars, buyers will turn a blind eye.

Once they have purchased the product, they will falsely certify it so that distributors will accept it. It took many deaths before the Chinese government finally began to take action. In 2007, the World Health Organization reported that around 440 counterfeit operations had been shut down. Hopefully, these efforts by authorities will be enough to prevent any future tragedies.

Gordon Gora is a struggling author who is desperately trying to make it. He is working on several projects, but until he finishes one, he will write for Listverse for his bread and butter. You can write him at [email protected].

10 Fascinating Insights Into Loneliness

Weve all had those days where we just dont feel like were socially connecting with anyone and where the world seems so very big and were so very small. Loneliness affects some more than others, and for some people, it can be the start of an endless cycle. Its even deadly for some animals, but understanding loneliness might help keep you from sinking into the deep, dark hole.

10The Loneliest Place On Earth


So you want to get away from it allfrom everything and everyone. Sure, you could head out into the woods, but what if you wanted to be completely, absolutely alone? Whats the loneliest place on Earth?

Point Nemoif you can get thereis the point on the globe thats farthest away from any terrestrial organism. Its in the middle of the South Pacific, between Maher Island off the coast of the Antarctic, Motu Nui near Easter Island, and Ducie Island, an uninhabited island to the north. Point Nemonamed for the Jules Verne characterwas only discovered in 1992, when satellite technology was finally good enough to allow us to accurately map coastlines and chart just what point was equidistant from all of them. The point is 2,300 kilometers (1,450 mi) away from each of the islands, making it the loneliest place on Earth.

Its so lonely that its doubtful anyone has ever even been there. No one had ever been to Maher Island until it was discovered in the 1940s. Theres certainly no easy way to get to Point Nemo, and theres nothing to be found there even if you did make the trip. Theres not even a beacon or a buoy, just more endless ocean and more being alone.

9Feeling Lonely vs. Social Isolation


Humans are very social creatures. Weve always relied on each other to survive. That reliance on others makes defining loneliness a tricky thing. According to studies done by University College London, theres a big difference between being lonely and being socially isolated. Its only when you start to look at loneliness in the context of how socially connected we are that you see how subjective a feeling it really is. There are people that can live miles away from anyone, have little contact with their family, and not be lonely, while other people can live on a busy street, regularly meet for family dinners, have friends they see on a daily basis, and still feel lonely.

That all gets even more tricky when you look at it in the context of the elderly. When researchers wanted to find out which was potentially more dangerous, being lonely or being isolated, they looked at 6,500 men and women aged 52 and older and rated them based on their risk of death over the course of 12 years. They ultimately came to the conclusion that social isolation was potentially more dangerous than just feeling lonely. When they looked at social isolation, they could predict patterns in health and well-being that reports of loneliness didnt allow them to. In the end, the study found that even if youre lonely, maintaining social connections was necessary for long-term health.



Homesickness is a particular kind of loneliness we feel when were away from home. For some people, it can be crippling. While its estimated that about 70 percent of people who move away from home suffer from it in some way, for a smaller percentage, homesickness can mean sinking into the dark pit of depression that they can only crawl out of with help. The most severe cases can come with panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and complete withdrawal from the surroundings that are new and completely unsettling.

Homesickness is certainly nothing new, either. Its described in Homers Odyssey, but it was only formally given a name when it was used to describe the feelings of loneliness and longing that Swiss soldiers got when they were far from home. In the 17th century, homesickness was thought to be an incredibly dangerous disease that would kill if left untreated. After that, popular opinion shifted. To be homesick was childish: It was what a grade-schooler felt during his first week at summer camp.

All of that meant that we stopped talking about it. We dont even know that much about homesickness, save for its very real effects. We know that some thingsanything, reallycan trigger it, and sometimes the tools we use to try to alleviate homesickness can make it worse. Hop on Facebook to keep in touch with friends back home, and its a cold reminder that youre not there to be in any of the pictures. And now, were also starting to think that homesickness never actually goes awaynot entirely, at least.

7The Social Surrogacy Hypothesis


Lonelinessand how we deal with itis a notoriously difficult bit of psychology to explore. Its only recently that researchers from the University of Buffalo and Miami University have started to explore what they call the Social Surrogacy Hypothesis.

The theory basically states that television can act as a surrogate for people who are longing to form meaningful social relationships. The researchers looked at when people turned to their favorite television shows, under what circumstances they tended to watch them, how they wrote about the shows and the characters, and how a persons current relationship status (including whether theyd just had a fight with a close friend or significant other) impacted their reactions to watching the shows.

They found that people who were lonely, had just experienced a blow to their self-esteem, or had been in an argument were craving social interaction that could be replaced with something called a parasocial relationship. Thats the relationship that develops between us and our favorite television characters when we become so invested in their lives that our brains view them as something of a close friend. We worry about them, we wait to find out what happens next, and we take it all very personally. The more lonely we are, the stronger that connection, and the more likely we are to be satisfied by these one-sided relationships.

6Loneliness Killed The Woolly Mammoth


Photo via: Wikimedia

Theres something incredibly heartbreaking about being among the last surviving handful of an entire species, and weve recently found out that thats exactly what happened to the woolly mammoth.

After two huge population declines, the last of the woolly mammoths lived on an island off the Russian coast. For 6,000 years, a tiny pocket of woolly mammoths scraped out a living on the rugged island. Without enough diversity in the population, they slowly got more inbred, and the species made its final decline. Its estimated that after the second major population decline, which killed off the mainland population and all but 3001,000 island-dwelling individuals, the population was never able to recover.

The island-dwelling mammoths were cut off from their mainland cousins by the rising sea levels that created their island and ultimately condemned the last surviving members to an incredibly lonely death. While the species recovered from the first population drop over the course of about 100,000 years, the isolation and inbreeding ultimately led to their extinction. Scientists still arent sure just what happened to the mainland population, but with the discovery of the complete mammoth genome, theyve learned just how inbred the final members of the species really were.

5Loneliness Makes Us See Inanimate Objects Differently


Researchers from Dartmouth College have found that extended periods of loneliness change the way we start to see inanimate objects. When were craving human contact and socialization, we start to have a slightly different relationship with things like online avatars and dollsespecially those with human faces. When subjects were shown photos of morphs that had varying degrees of human and animated features, those that were lonely were more likely to describe the faces as completely human.

The study even showed a pronounced difference in how our mood impacts our ability to see faces. Students were asked to fill out a questionnaire, then given feedback on what their answers suggested about their future. Feedback was completely random (even though students didnt know it). Those students that were given a prediction of a lonelier future were also more likely to see more human faces.

This impact can also be extended into the territory of the uncanny valley effect. Typically, we have a tendency to view animated people and robots who are too lifelike as creepy and unsettling. That reaction is partially negated in lonely people, though, who tend to find artificial faces more attractive.

4Electric Shock Is Preferable To 15 Minutes Of Loneliness

Man and electrical arc

Imagine, for a minute, that you have nothing to do, nowhere to be, and no one to talk to. Your assigned task is to just sit in a room and think. Daydream. Imagine. Whatever you like, as long as its in your own head. Sound awesome? Psychologists from Harvard University and University of Virginia conducted a series of 11 studies that demonstrated something pretty surprising. For most of us, its not awesome at all, and wed rather be doing anything elseeven if the only thing available to us hurts.

They tested people between the ages of 18 and 77 and asked them to sit in a room for periods of anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes. Regardless of age, the results were much the same: People found it hard to think, hard to concentrate, completely unenjoyable, and insanely difficult. Those that were put in a room with no outlet for entertainment outside of their own head found themselves restless and distracted, unable to concentrate. When they were in their own homes, most of them couldnt do it at all and cheated by playing music or playing with a cell phone.

The experiment got epic when the only thing the subjects were given was a button that would administer an electric shock to them when they pushed it. Even though most people stated they would pay money to avoid being shocked before the experiment started, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women were so overcome by the lack of sensory input that they found shocking themselves preferable to the lonely sensation of being inside their own heads for only 15 minutes.

3Loneliness Spreads Like A Disease


By now, weve watched enough shows and movies about the zombie apocalypse to know that it spreads across the world like a disease. Loneliness does, too.

Researchers from the University of Chicago looked at exactly how loneliness spreads, and they found that like the spread of a nasty germ, it all starts with a nasty encounter. Say youre already feeling pretty down, and a friend makes an offhand comment or does something that makes you uncomfortable. If you were in a better mood, you might not have even noticed it, but as it is, it strikes right at the heart of your gloomy day. When you get home, you remember that. It sticks with you, and the next time you might have called your friend to go grab a drink after work, you dont. From your friends point of view, you stopped calling them. That leads to the crumbling of a friendship and puts them in the same mood you were in when they accidentally offended you.

Sounds far-fetched? Its not. Lonely people can unintentionally make themselves lonelier by anticipating actions that are going to hurt them. In turn, this makes them drift to the social fringes. In a study of 5,000 subjects, researchers looked at how lonely people felt on particular days and their social interactions for those days. They found that loneliness is contagious to the third degree. People who are chronically lonely have been found to transmit that to other acquaintances, who then go on to similarly drift to the outskirts of their social groups as that network unravels.

This might have some very concrete implications for the treatment of mental illness, depression, and chronic loneliness. Knowing how social networks impact each other can allow people to become more proactive in mending relationships before they start to unravel and before loneliness leads to a post-apocalyptic mental wasteland.

2Comfort Food Fights Loneliness


Whats that favorite food that you always requested for your birthday? How about that special anniversary dinner? The meal that mom made when she knew you were going through a tough time? Theres a reason its called comfort food, and its been found that just thinking about it has a very real impact on our loneliness.

A study done at the University of Buffalo asked participants to write about a fight theyd had with someone they loved, in order to set a baseline of anxiety, sadness, and a threatened social status. Afterward, they were asked to either write about their favorite comfort food or a new food that theyd like to try. When they were asked to rate their loneliness after that, those that wrote about their comfort food felt significantly less lonely.

Another study had students eat chicken soup, then fill missing letters into words. Those that ate chicken soup and considered it one of their comfort foods were more likely to use letters that spelled out relationship-centric words. On the other hand, those that didnt consider chicken soup as comfort food (or werent given the soup) created words that were not related to social interaction or relationships.

That all seems to suggest that comfort foodeven if were just thinking about ithas a profound impact on our emotional state.

1Brains Of Lonely People Work Differently


Its been shown that the brains of lonely people are visibly different from the brains of those who dont suffer from chronic loneliness.

An admittedly small study conducted by the University of Chicago focused on people whose answers to a questionnaire identified them as socially isolated and lonely. When these people were shown pictures of others enjoying themselves, there was less activity in the part of the brain that typically reacts to rewards and pleasure. Researchers werent sure if the lack of activity in the brain led to feelings of loneliness or if prolonged social isolation had conditioned the brain to respond in a way that was likely to increase their isolation. Nevertheless, researchers are certain that it has the potential to be a major breakthroughand one that couldnt come at a better time. With more people having increasingly smaller families, its estimated that the number of people living alone will continue to climb. Knowing just how our brains are programmed may go a long way in helping those who suffer from chronic loneliness.

Loneliness has also been shown to impact how we process cold temperatures. A study from the University of Toronto found that when participants were asked to recount a situation in which they were isolated from a social group reported that the temperature in the room was, on average, much colder than those that were asked to talk about a time they were included in a group setting. Researchers also ran another experiment in which a group of people played catch, with some people being excluded more than others. Those that were excluded were more likely to gravitate toward hot drinks after the game. This suggests that we pick a hot cup of tea or coffeeor our favorite chicken soupbecause of a quite literal cold feeling we get from isolation. Researchers go on to state that they suspect this link forms in us during infancy, where babies associate warmth with social interaction.

+Animals Can Die From Loneliness


We think loneliness is a pretty sad feeling, and there are always going to be those cynical people that insist animals dont have the same feelings. But we know thats not trueand we can prove it.

A study of the effects of social isolation and loneliness on African gray parrots found something pretty heartbreaking. Telomeres are sections of DNA that are responsible for regulating the stability of chromosomes. As birds get older, their age is reflected in the length of the telomeres. Nine-year-old parrots who were kept in cages alone had the same telomere structures as socialized birds that were 23 years old, showing that the stress of isolation and loneliness is so real that it degrades the genetic makeup of birds at a staggering rate.

And recently, researchers have found another animal that suffers absolute agony from loneliness: the ant. Research from the University of Tokyo found that separating a single ant from its colony leaves it with a lifespan thats reduced by 91 percent, for a pretty bizarre reason. An ant thats alone is incapable of digesting its food. While ants regurgitate and share food in their nest, a single ant will simply pace back and forth and store its undigested food . . . until it dies from loneliness.