Shrew Knew?

By Scott LaFee

August 15, 2018 5 min read

Chinese tree shrews reportedly eat chili peppers like candy. At least a few scientists wanted to know why and came up with an answer: Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that triggers activation of the TRPV1 ion channel on the surface of the tongue's pain-sensitive cells. The more capsaicin in a pepper, the hotter and more painful it is. Paprika has 10 to 30 parts per million of capsaicin; some peppers like habaneros have upwards of 13,000 ppm.

Most mammals and some humans avoid chili peppers (or spicy foods) for just this reason, but researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that in tree shrews and some mice, a single amino acid difference in their TRPV1 proteins significantly reduces capsaicin's ability to bind and minimizes the peppers' burning, painful sensation.

Dust in the Mail

Indiana researchers are gathering data on the prevalence of lead, chromium and other contaminants in people's homes. They're asking residents in the U.S. and Canada to send in samples of dust found in their vacuums for free analysis. Senders get back a report, including suggestions on how to handle any contaminants found.

Body of Knowledge

In maximum ordinary breathing, the speed of air passing through the nose equals 10 feet per second, or Force 2 on the Beaufort wind scale, e.g., a light breeze.


1 in 4: Number of doctors surveyed who said they had been sexually harassed by a patient in the last three years

Source: Medscape

Doc Talk

Claudication: limping caused by impaired blood supply to the legs

Mania of the Week

Sophomania: the delusion that one is incredibly intelligent (Not contagious, but there seems to be a lot of it going around.)

Life in Big Macs

One hour of general aerobics burns 442 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of slightly more than half a Big Mac or 1.6 Snickers bars.

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for birthday cake is 14.5 pounds in 8 minutes, held by Matt Stonie. Stonie broke the record on Feb. 14, 2015, which happens to be Valentine's Day and also the birthday of celebrities like Simon Pegg, Meg Tilly and Freddie Highmore, none of whom were present at the event.

Best Medicine

A doctor was giving a lecture to a group of medical students at a teaching hospital.

Pointing to an X-ray, he said, "As you can see, this patient limps because his right fibula and tibia are radically arched." Then the doctor turned to one of the students and asked: "Now what would you do in a case like this?" Replied the student, "I suppose I would limp, too."


"After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting."

—Author Chuck Palahniuk in "Choke" (2001)

Medical History

This week in 1848, the first U.S. patent for a surgical or dental operating chair with adjustable elevation and tilt of seat and back was issued to M.W. Hanchett of Syracuse, N.Y. The chair also included a footrest with adjustable elevation.

Self Exam

Q: The atoms that comprise your body are mostly empty space. If you compressed all of your actual matter so that there was no empty atomic space, how big would you be?

A: A cube less than one-500th of a centimeter on each side. Neutron stars are made up of matter that has undergone exactly this kind of compression. A single cubic centimeter of neutron star contains approximately 100 million tons of matter.

Medical Myths

If you stop weight training, your muscle will not turn to fat. These are two completely different types of tissue — one cannot become the other. What happens after you stop maintaining or building muscle mass is that resulting inactivity may cause muscle to atrophy (use it or lose it). Compounding the problem is that reduced activity lowers metabolism. If you eat the same but exercise less, the result might be additional, accumulating fat tissue.

Curtain Calls

In 1923, George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, died after a mosquito bite on his face, which he cut while shaving, became seriously infected, leading to blood poisoning and eventually to pneumonia. The death of the English aristocrat is sometimes, fabulously attributed to the so-called "curse of the pharaohs" because Carnarvon was the financial backer of the search for and excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt in 1922.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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There's Not a Vitamin for That

By Scott LaFee
A meta-analysis of 18 studies that investigated the link between vitamin and mineral supplements and cardiovascular disease outcomes concludes that the former doesn't seem to do much to curb the risk of the latter. In ot Keep reading