Livin' on the MDedge

A new take on breathing and a performance-enhancing placebo


No ifs, ands, or butt ventilators

Breathing, on most days, is a pretty simple task. You inhale, the oxygen goes in, fills your lungs, becomes carbon dioxide, and is exhaled. But as certain recent events have made very clear, some diseases make this task difficult, which is where ventilators come in. The issue is, some patients can’t really use ventilators.

Enter a new study from Japan, which tested the ability of mice and pigs to absorb oxygen through the rectum. Yes, breathing through the butt. It’s not actually such a far-fetched idea; several aquatic animals such as sea cucumbers and catfish absorb oxygen through their intestines, and as any drunken frat boy can tell you after a good butt chug, other chemicals can absolutely be absorbed by human intestines.

After an initial successful experiment where a group of mice had their intestines scrubbed, had pure oxygen inserted enterally, and were exposed to a hypoxic environment, the researchers decided to step up their game and avoid the exhaustive act of digestive scrubbing by enlisting the aid of something out of science fiction: perfluorocarbon. If you haven’t seen “The Abyss,” this liquid can absorb massive amounts of oxygen, so you can actually breathe it in the same way you do with air.

A pair of pigs from behind Robert Jones/Pixabay

In part two of the experiment, a group of hypoxic mice and pigs had perfluorocarbon inserted into their anuses, while another group got saline solution. The saline group did not fare well, but the animals that got perfluorocarbon had their hypoxic symptoms relieved within minutes.

The effectiveness of this procedure in humans clearly has yet to be tested, and while it may not be useful in all, or even most, situations, it is always beneficial to have more ways to combat a problem. Just don’t tell the frat boys: They’ll be hooking oxygen tanks up to their butts and chanting: “Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!”

Better, stronger, faster … pinker

Many people, most of whom aren’t even athletes, commit huge amounts of time, effort, and expense to improve their athletic performance. But what if there’s an easier way?

Research conducted at the University of Westminster (England) showed that participants could, with one fairly simple intervention, get on a treadmill and run 212 meters further in 30 minutes, increasing their speed by an average of 4.4%. Not only that, but “feelings of pleasure were also enhanced, meaning participants found running more enjoyable,” according to a statement from the university.

Is this amazing intervention a new wonder drug? No. Is it a super special nutritional supplement? Negatory. An energy drink that “gives you wiiings”? Nope. The latest designer steroid? Nyet.

A woman uses a treadmill Kristan Hutchison (Property of National Science Foundation)

Like we said, it’s simple, and it’s pink. Literally, the color pink. We will explain.

Each of the 10 study subjects completed two 30-minute trials on the treadmill. For one, they were given a clear, artificially sweetened drink while they were running. For the other, they received the exact same drink colored pink with food dye. Pink did better. So to recap the last month in our column, faster looks pink, and skinny smells like lemons.

Once again, science demonstrates that you can’t go wrong by fooling a brain. Next week, LOTME tries to find out if purple makes you funnier.


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