About household myths in new way, or Whether microwave and black mold can kill

Cholesterol — my friend?

The Kazan Federal University has given lectures as part of the traditional popular science project Pro-Science since November 16. However, this year their format has changed: coronavirus has forced the organisers to switch lectures to online. During a week, teachers and scientists of the university talked about when humanity will finally visit other planets or get rid of all diseases. Realnoe Vremya together with university students joined a lecture by well-known medical blogger and scientific journalist Aleksey Vodovozov, in which he debunks myths about dangerous devices or substances that people encounter on a daily basis.

If we didn't have cholesterol, we wouldn't exist as a human body

Is it really such a terrible creature that clogs a person's blood vessels and, as a result, leads to heart attacks, strokes, and so on? And what is the correct name for it — cholesterol or cholesterin?

The question is not so easy. Back in 1769, when famous researcher François Poulletier de la Salle found yellowish stones in a patient's removed gallbladder, picked up one of them and tried to crush it, his fingers became greasy, and he thought that it was a piece of adipocere.

Later, in 1815, Michel Eugène Chevreul gave the name of this substance, which sounded like “cholesterol”. According to the rules of the then emerging nomenclature, various fatty acids, fats ended with —in, for example, glycerin, this was correct for 1815. But the thing is that 40 years later, another outstanding researcher, Marcellin Berthelot, found out that cholesterin is a fatty alcohol, however, like glycerin, so it should be called “cholesterol”, by analogy with the names of other alcohols, for example, “ethanol”. But those four decades were enough for the name “cholesterin” to be firmly fixed in some languages, for example in Russian and German, but in English a new name appeared and established — cholesterol.

Everyone probably knows that cholesterin can be bad and good, and most often high-density proteins are called good. Accordingly, those with low density are bad cholesterin. The more good, the better, and vice versa. In one of the issues of Time magazine, an article was published that cholesterin is an enemy that penetrates our body in large quantities from animal fats, causes atherosclerosis, which then leads to coronary heart disease, strokes and other diseases, and it should be abandoned. This means that you can not eat eggs, butter, fried bacon, shrimp and other products.

However, three decades later, the same publication wrote: eat butter, doctors were wrong. A lot of interesting things have happened in 30 years.

Cholesterin is produced inside our body, and there is some amount that gets into us with food. And it turns out that this is an extremely normal substance for our body, because if we didn't have cholesterin, we wouldn't exist as a human body.

Why? Because all our membranes are made up of phospholipids, which in turn are made up of phospholipids. Besides, we would not have men and women, because sex steroid hormones are created from cholesterol. This is not only not harmful but also a critical compound for the human body. Only 20% of cholesterol we get from food, and the rest of the body synthesises itself.

By the way, cholesterol is present not only in animal forms, but also in plant foods — these are some types of the Solanaceae family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers. Remember, potatoes turn green — thus junk is accumulated, not quite a pleasant substance for a person, which can cause gastroenterological disorders, in fact poisoning. And yes, indeed, it is a kind of poison. And it is this poison that is synthesised from cholesterin. If you look at the cholesterin content in oils, then corn oil has 55 mg per kilogramme — this is, of course, less than in animal sources, but this does not mean that vegetable sources are useful for humans.

There were studies that evaluated the effect of cholesterin-free diets, during which it turned out that no, they do not affect the level of cholesterin in the blood, this is illogical. And if we want to change the level of cholesterin in the blood, we need to interfere with the internal processes of the body. It is this concept that has grown a whole galaxy of drugs called “statins”, which block the synthesis of cholesterol at the liver level.

Today we understand that food and cholesterin are not related, and we get the minimum amount of cholesterin through it. If we reduce it, the body will still “finish” the amount it needs a day, it will still produce cholesterin inside the liver, because this is a critical substance. Now we understand that it is necessary for the body.

Yes, indeed, it can participate in the pathological process of plaque formation, but it is not guilty — that is, it does not do it: first, there are damage to nerve cells, damaged cells begin to massively capture cholesterin from normal, for example, to foam ones — they are so called because they look like foam. And then a sclerotic plaque appears in this cell as an attempt to patch the hole.

Today, this understanding of atherosclerosis is confirmed and meets all scientific research. And yes, high cholesterol itself can be just a marker of a pathological process. The thing is that even with low cholesterin, osteoarthritis is quite possible, that is, there are several other factors involved, and not just lipid ones.

What is good about medical science: after all, scientists have figured out the effect of cholesterol and returned to the right direction. So today we can say that cholesterin is not a killer.

Sulphur protects the ear from various environmental factors

Are cotton buds murderers? A person uses them to clean the ear canal from ear wax.

And I must say that this is a little self-harming. The thing is that ear wax is a protective substance, since it contains a large number of viscous substances, including those formed as a result of cholesterin metabolism. There is also lysozyme — an antibacterial and antiviral substance that is produced by the body. That is, it is a kind of putty, but it gets stuck with dust, some insect particles, what is in the air, including microorganisms and viruses that are affected by lysozyme.

If it is regularly removed mechanically, it will weaken the body's protection in the external ear canal, and this is unacceptable. If some mechanical damage occurs in the ear or any inflammatory process begins, then the case may end sadly, it may develop, for example, not external, but otitis media, then there will be a lesion of the inner ear, a violation of balance, and so on.

You need to protect your ear. And this is exactly what ear wax does — it protects the ear from various environmental factors.

To clear the ear of accumulated wax, people have come up with ear candles. The procedure is a bit similar to inquisitorial: a special tube is inserted into the ear, set on fire, and a draft is formed in it, which removes the accumulated wax into the tube. At the same time, it is much more likely to get a burn, so the damage from it can be much greater.

How do ENT doctors deal with earwax that can block the ear canal and reduce hearing acuity? The first thing they do is examine the ear with an otoscope to determine the location of the earwax. Then it is softened with water, that is, the ear is washed. If it is not strongly glued to the ear wall, it is easily washed out. But sometimes it sticks tightly, and they fail just to remove it. First, it is still softened with warm water and then removed with an ear probe. It is clear that the buds can not cope with this.

These buds have a very interesting history — you can say the embodiment of the American dream. They were invented by Polish emigrant Leo Gerstenzang. He had a baby and watched his wife take care of the baby. She took a toothpick, wrapped a piece of cotton wool, and brushed the baby's ears. Leo thought — why not make ready-made such sticks? People liked the idea, the cotton buds were in great demand. For example, in 2014, they sold almost $200 million worldwide.

Today, cotton buds are no longer made of wood, and most often cotton wool on both sides, and manufacturers indicate how to use them correctly, for example, for removing or correcting makeup, for spot application of medical ointments or gels. To clean the baby's ear, special sticks are made with an extension so that it does not penetrate deeply. But some parents manage to push this stick quite deep. For example, over 20 years, more than 260,000 parents with children who received various injuries from these very sticks have applied to the emergency departments of hospitals. There are many facts when buds violated the integrity of the eardrum.

Can a microwave kill you? If you drop it from a height, yes

Can a microwave kill you? If you drop it from a height, yes, but not with magnetic waves.

From a scientific point of view, radiation is ionizing radiation. What does it mean? This is short-wave high-energy radiation. But what's there? Here are microwaves, with a length of about 18,5 cm, that is, this is a completely different level: they do not carry an ionizing potential, since it is impossible to tear off some parts of the molecules using such a wave. This is not the same ultrashort wave that is used in x-ray radiation or in cobalt guns, where gamma rays and everything else, that is, there is a completely different story. This is the first point.

Second point. Look at any door of the microwave — it has some kind of grid. What kind of grid is it? This is the Faraday shield — a special device that does not transmit radiation with a wavelength less than the stroke of the shield. See what kind of grids there are, what kind of cells there are — they are very small, so 18,5 cm will not come out of there in any way. And even something shorter-wave won't get out either.

How can microwaves harm us? First, it turns out that due to the peculiarities of using a microwave oven, it preserves biologically active substances better. Why? Well, for example, when frying, they are quite actively destroyed, and even some carcinogenic substances can be formed there if we do not properly handle food. And when we cook with a microwave, everything is completely safe, and useful substances are stored longer.

Where is the harm? It is still possible and is associated with other features of microwaves. For example, we take a certain product, it is covered with a film on top, and just like that we put it in the microwave. In this case, it is really possible to transfer molecules from the package to the product. Of course, it will not become plastic, but a certain number of molecules will move there.

Whether this is good or bad is another matter, and depends on what went over there. So the problem appears exactly when we violate the operating instructions. We take this product, take it out of its “native” packaging and pour it or pour it into glass or ceramic, and then put it in the microwave.

Another option is that you unevenly heat the food, which means that the food will not get rid of, say, salmonella, and therefore all sorts of various dysentery and other intestinal infections are quite likely. And this is the real danger from microwaves. But it is solved simply.

You should not put whole chicken in the microwave, it is better to cut it into pieces and only then warm it up. The same applies to frozen foods: we defrost them first, and then cook them.

Is black mold dangerous?

A lot of nonsense from self-appointed experts can be found today on Instagram. For example, some publications related to coffee: that it must be only black and without milk, and most importantly, that instant coffee should be excluded from the diet altogether, because it is dangerous for mycotoxins that are produced by mold fungi.

This is an actual mistake, in fact, spores are mold. But are there any mycotoxins, this is actually the problem?

The WHO and other world organisations that deal with food safety are talking about this problem. Only it looks different. For example, on some cereals, you can find a mold fungus such as ergot. It is the source of very dangerous mycotoxins — ergotamines and ergotoxins, which cause poisoning by these two ergot alkaloids, which threaten a person with mental disorders. In the middle ages, they were known as “St. Anthony's fire ". Then, as you know, there was no agricultural chemistry, and a large amount of ergot could get into flour, and then into bread, so that a large number of people at that time suffered from hallucinations and disorders of other organs and systems of the human body.

Today, ergot is dangerous mainly for farm animals that eat cereals that are not cultivated and are not processed by special teams. Ergot was last found on wheat in the 1950s.

Another variant of mycotoxin is black mold — a terrible, insidious, which protects the tombs of the pharaohs, the so-called Aspergillus fungus, which secretes a very strong aflatoxin. But here begin but. If you take one such fungus and look at it at the molecular level, it releases mycotoxin into the environment, but, according to research, in a room where even the walls are completely covered with this mold, the concentration necessary for poisoning is not formed. In other words, it is impossible to achieve this toxic concentration.

It is interesting that, for example, black mold in a room is rather a marker that there are unfavourable living conditions: high humidity, poor ventilation, and so on. And this can lead, for example, to diseases of the respiratory system, but it has nothing to do with mold.

The only option is if the mold emits spores that multiply. And they, like pollen, can act as a sensitizer — settle on the bronchial mucosa and lead to bronchospasms, signs of suffocation and, with prolonged exposure, to bronchial asthma.

So, food mycotoxins exist, but they affect food supplies, and mostly, of course, in Africa, simply because the necessary agricultural technologies are not available there.

In 2004, one of the largest recent outbreaks was recorded in Kenya, with 325 victims and 125 deaths. Dangerous? Definitely, who would argue! However, storage conditions must not be violated and clearly affected raw materials must not be used.

Prepared by Angelina Panchenko, screenshots of Aleksey Vodovozov's lecture