Thinly sliced: Five wacky food studies to brighten up your Friday

Editor’s note: Some days, it’s really hard to make the case that food should dominate the news roundup. Today is one of those days. So, in lieu of aggregating more headlines today, we are instead presenting a Thinly Sliced palate cleanser. We recommend you chase every shot of current events coverage with a big, refreshing sip from one of these zany, inspiring, or delightful studies. (And yes, these are the actual headlines that comms teams drummed up.) Cheers.

“French Fries Are No. 1 Vegetable Consumed by Toddlers, Finds Landmark Study.” Once upon a time, ketchup was a vegetable. Now french fries are. According to the press release we received, french fries are the vegetable most commonly eaten by American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers—and more than a quarter of 2- and 3-year-olds hadn’t had vegetables of any kind on the day researchers polled their parents. But the disturbing takeaway highlighted in the press release glossed over some of the nuances of the actual study, which was funded by packaged food giant Nestle, and published in the Journal of Nutrition. Yes, fried potatoes were the vegetable eaten most often, but children in the study were more than twice as likely to have eaten any other cooked vegetable. Sounds like good, old-fashioned fear-mongering to us. Not to mention a chance for Nestle-owned baby food maker Gerber to hawk new smoothie packets aimed at toddlers (and their stressed-out parents).

“Octopuses Given Mood Drug ‘Ecstasy’ Reveal Genetic Link to Evolution of Social Behaviors in Humans.” Had ecstasy been referred to as a legit-sounding “mood drug” the way it is in this edifying Johns Hopkins University study, we’d surely have dosed a lot more of it in the 1990s. (Might’ve kept us from sulking in the corner at all those raves, too!) As it turns out, we aren’t the only species to get all soft and lovey dovey when souped up on Molly. Our gelatinous invertebrate friends the octopi do, too. The notoriously asocial creatures, when exposed to a liquefied version of MDMA inside a cage in a lab setting, “tended to hug the cage and put their mouth parts on the cage,” said one of the researchers. “This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently.” We’ll just leave you with that.

“Buyer Beware: Products Claiming ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ May Not Contain Species, UF Researchers Find.” Here’s the gist of this one, from the University of Florida: Reishi mushrooms—commonly known as mushrooms of immortality in traditional Chinese medicine—are experiencing a surge in popularity in the (wildly unregulated) world of nutritional supplements. Scientifically, they are the lucidum species of the Ganodermagenus of mushrooms. However, some supplement companies that claimGanoderma lucidum in their ingredients lists may be confusing it with otherGanoderma species. Easy mistake? Many species of the fungus do overlap in anti-inflammatory properties, traditional uses, and appearance. Sometimes, different species can have the same name, as they get lost in translation from one East Asian language to another. This doesn’t mean you should throw out all your reishi tea. Just know it may not contain the mushroom you think it does. No word yet on whether supplements actually contain immortality.

“Scientists Grow Human Esophagus in Lab.” Scientists from theCincinnati Children’s Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM) have bioengineered an esophagus “strikingly similar in composition” to our own. Researchers created the simulated esophagus using pluripotent stem cells, which are often known as “master cells” because they can develop into any cell of the human body. The esophagus is the latest in a series of digestive organs being replicated at CuSTOM, following its stomach, intestine, colon, and liver predecessors. The goal is to study these models for insight on related birth defects—and to even one day create genetically matching organs for patients who need them. Scientists: If you’re reading this, do the appendix next.

“Got the ‘Drunchies’? New Study Shows How Heavy Drinking Affects Diet.” Nothing sounds better after a bender than a big ol’ bowl of kale salad, right? Obviously not. But now it’s proven by science. University at Buffalo researchers studied what college students eat while—and for the first meal after—getting hammered. Hot take: They call it a “binge” for a reason. Heavy drinking prompts our blood glucose to rise and fall, which stimulates our brain to feel hungry. And, speaking from scientific experience, of course, we can confirm that pizza and tacos tend to top the hangover menu. Sorry, chard, we’re just not that into you the next day.

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