January 8, 2013 - You might have noticed that pretty much every subject is infinitely more complicated than it appears at first glance. Maybe nothing proves this more than our relationship with food. As a kid, it's just "If it tastes good, cram it into your mouth until Mom makes you stop." The you get older and pay a little more attention, and you realize that you have to start reading labels. And if you pay even more attention, you realize that humanity's relationship with what we eat is downright bizarre.
As we have previously discussed, food can and absolutely will affect you in plenty of other ways besides just filling your stomach. And it keeps getting weirder ...
#5. A Common Food Ingredient Apparently Turns You into an Aggressive Dick
Look, you already knew that margarine, the somehow less-healthy alternative to butter, wasn't good for you. And as is the case with many processed products, margarine enjoys its share of wild-ass rumors and urban legends, from its supposedly appalling original color to the one about it being practically plastic. However, the stuff does have one peculiar side effect that is often overlooked: Margarine can turn you into a raging bag of cocks. Of course, we're not being literal (we think). What we're saying is that margarine increases your aggression.
"Bring it on, bitches -- I've been choking down Pop-Tarts since 7 a.m."
What's worse, it's not just margarine. Any food that has dietary trans fatty acids can do it: cake mixes, frozen dinners, cookies, french fries, doughnuts ... you name your favorite food, chances are it has copious amounts of dTFA lounging about.
Everyone knows that trans fats are linked to a multitude of health problems, and science has had a blast finding out all the ways they can mess us up. Recently, researchers have gotten curious about whether trans fats could affect our personality in the same way that they wreck our physical health. So they recruited nearly a thousand test subjects from all walks of life and studied their behavior, rating their levels of aggression and comparing it to their dTFA intake.
"Keep snapping pictures and you'll have to pull your ass cheeks apart to take the next one."
After adjusting for other possible factors like sex, age, and alcohol and drug abuse, researchers were left with some pretty condemning evidence: The consumption of dTFA has a significant effect on a person's irritability and aggression levels. In fact, the dTFA consumed consistently and accurately predicted how much of an irritable dick the person was.
Of course, the first question you should ask when hearing about this type of connection is "Are you saying that doughnuts make people dicks, or that being a dick simply makes people hungry for doughnuts?" Well, the theory at this point is that these chemicals block your ability to create the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids your brain needs. So, if your roommate is acting like a dick, throw out all of his snacks and replace them with celery sticks. That'll cheer his ass right up!
#4. Hot Drinks Actually Cool Your Body
You're mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. The combination of heat, humidity, and uncharacteristic manual labor is drenching you in sweat, to the point that the crazy hobo living under your porch barely even throws his poop at you for fear of getting it dirty. Still, it's a good day -- all you need to make it perfect is a drink to cool you down. But should your thirst be quenched with lemonade? Beer? Perhaps iced water?
Nope! By drinking any of those, you're doing precisely jack shit to cool your sun-scorched ass. If you want to cool down, your drink needs to be hot.
"It's going to be a scorcher today -- Glenda, warm up my morning vodka."
It sounds wrong to the point of triggering physical disgust to even think about, but those of you who have visited (or lived in) a really hot country -- say, India -- know that the people there have a tendency to drink hot tea. They know that that particular beverage cools them off far better than the coldest of cold drinks could, because they're actually using the human body's natural cooling process instead of working against it.
When you do the seemingly reasonable thing for a hot day and drink something chilled, the information the receptors in your mouth receive is: "Whoa, this shit is cold." They pass this intel on to the brain, which in turn thinks that the cool sensation amounts to everything being nice and chilly in the outside environment and moves on to other, more pressing matters. But drink something hot, and your receptors rush up to Mama Brain to complain about the heat. The brain immediately responds by turning on the body's built-in cooling mechanism: sweat.
"After this microwaved pickle juice, I'm gonna have to go wash my balls."
Yes, drinking something hot will make you sweat more, but that's what you want. The same principle works with spicy food, which goes a long way toward explaining why warmer areas enjoy their chili peppers.
Oh, and another thing: If you're attempting to pull this off when you're wearing clothes that won't allow suitable evaporation, it won't do you any good. So if you embrace the hot drink strategy at a relative's wedding, prepare for an evening of shambling around in sweat-drenched formal wear while everyone else takes care to stand upwind. What we're trying to say is that a proper cooling program requires a hot drink and a big dose of nudity.
#3. The Sight of Meat Calms You Down (if You're a Guy)
If you get your ass kicked by a huge dude in a biker bar, would you assume that the guy is a meat eater or a vegetarian? Hell, has a vegetarian ever kicked another person's ass in the history of the world? It's not just humans, either -- dangle a steak in front of a tiger and you'll lose your arm. All of those aggressive hunter instincts come right to the surface. Isn't this why men like barbecues? What makes them feel manlier than the sight of hunks of charred meat?
Eh, doesn't count. They still think of that as clothed meat.
But, when researchers actually got around to testing this thesis, the results were ... surprising. Where male dogs enter full-on drooling aggro mode upon seeing a delicious lump of carcass, human men actually calm down when they see meat.
To research this, scientists set up an intricate fake "multitasking" experiment where a bunch of guys had to observe an actor reading a script. Every time the reader made a mistake, they had to punish the guy (who just faked pain) with a sharp noise, the loudness and hurtitude of which depended entirely on the punisher's whim. During this process, some of the men were shown neutral images, while others were subjected to pictures of delicious, delicious meat.
Ah yes, and the confounding neutral meat.
Imagine the researchers' surprise when the guys who were most aggressive in doling out punishment were the ones who hadn't been shown food porn. Meanwhile, the meat-viewing men remained cool and laid back in their actions.
It makes sense, if you think about it. After all, meat is what you get after the hunt is already over. So when a guy has meat in his field of vision, his brain knows that the prey has already been killed and there's no call for murder instincts anymore. Therefore, it tells him to relax and enjoy the delicious spoils of the war he wrought against the animal kingdom.
#2. Colored Chips Can Control Your Eating
Sometimes there's nothing better than sinking into the couch to watch a good movie armed with a cold drink and a giant bag of chips. Of course, there's only one way for such a scenario to end: Before long, your chips are all gone, even though you swear you never meant to eat them all. The entire potato chip industry is based on this "mindlessly eat until your hand punches through the bottom of the bag" behavior.
Thankfully, researchers have found a way to bring your accidental snack-binging under control ... with food coloring. And it's not what you think -- we're not talking about dyeing food some disgusting color so you don't want it anymore, although that also works (that's why your "dye all of the food green for St. Patrick's Day" party failed). No, it turns out that mixing up the colors of the food makes it easier to keep track of how much we eat.
Chip math is so much easier when you can count them, versus weighing their liquid volume in the toilet.
For the experiment, scientists took tubes of Pringles and sneaked red-dyed chips into them at regular intervals. The test subjects were then told to eat however much they liked, upon which everyone unsurprisingly went all "Whoa, free food!"
Yet, as the dust settled, the people who'd had red chips in their tubes ate 50 percent less than the ones with just regular chips. The placement of the red chips didn't matter, either -- as long as these "divider" chips were present, people just ate less.
The colorblind, however, are still fucked.
Researchers then asked both groups to estimate how much they'd eaten, and again, those who'd had their chips segmented with the red ones were much more successful than those with unaltered snacks.
The thing is, we all know that it's best not to eat too much. Sometimes our brains just have a hard time determining when we've overeaten, because food has few tangible markers beyond "Yeah, there's still some" and "Fuck, all gone now." So the brain just sort of gives up and lets you go on with the automated eating sequence until the food is gone or you collapse. However, introduce the red chips into the equation as markers, and your brain is suddenly able to monitor exactly how much crap you're shoving into your face -- and send a stop signal when appropriate.
#1. Alcohol Boosts Your Subconscious Memory
Everyone knows that alcohol and memory enjoy an inverse relationship: When your head is full of one, the other is notably absent. That's kind of the point of the whole "drinking to forget" thing.
There's a truth to it, of course -- everyone knows that your pub quiz performance deteriorates to hell after a few beers, and a sufficiently thick vodka haze makes your home keys literally impossible to find. However, memory is a notoriously fickle bastard that operates on many levels. On the lowest of them all, we find none other but our subconscious. And according to scientists, alcohol and subconscious memory like to hook up and go to town.
Not a metaphor. This photo was taken in 1988.
It goes back to the basic chemistry that makes drinking enjoyable. The happy buzz you receive from drinking is achieved when the booze cheats your brain into releasing dopamine, the body's very own "Fuck yeah!" hormone. The thing is, it doesn't stop there. Although perfectly capable of giving you a sense of happiness, dopamine is at its core not a pleasure hormone -- it's a learning hormone. The more dopamine you have in your body, the more receptive you become to learning and remembering everything around you ... at a subconscious level.
Your subconscious memory views the feel-good fix that dopamine delivers as a reward it gets from learning as much shit as it can. And boy, it can learn. When your conscious thoughts are drunkenly slurring obscenities at the dude who objected to your tabletop performance of the "Gangnam Style" dance, your subconscious memory is busy being acutely aware of its surroundings, forming all sorts of memory tricks and repeatable habits like no tomorrow.
"Hold my calls. I'm studying for that sales presentation."
The various components of this process are still being explored, but researchers have already gone so far as to suggest that alcoholics may actually not be addicted to alcohol itself, but rather to the memory of the tuned-in state that booze gives to their subconscious. You're forming memories at a faster rate than ever, but instead of anything useful, all you're retaining is the memory that drinking made you feel awesome. Once again, the biggest enabler of your bad habits is that big squishy asshole between your ears.