A new study seeks to understand why the average body temperature is no longer 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Average human body temperatures have declined, show several studies.
- A new paper looked at an indigenous population in the Amazon over 16 years.
- They found the new body temperature of the observed people to be 97.7°F, not the standard 98.6°F.
Temperature checks have become part of the new normal in the world under Covid, but the average body temperature may not be what the thermometers say. A series of studies, including a new paper, propose that the average human body temperature has been dropping for decades and is currently much lower than the accepted 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, in fact, closer to 97.5°F.
The established standard for how warm your body should be came from the 19th century German physician Carl Wunderlich, whose 1851 measurement of 98.6°F set the bar for a long time. A 2017 study, however, that looked at 35,000 UK adults, found 97.9°F to be the average. A 2019 study measured 97.5°F as the normal temperature for Americans in Palo Alto, California.
Now, a team of physicians looked at the temperatures of the Tsimane, an indigenous people of the Bolivian Amazon, and discovered a comparable decrease. Observations over a 16-year-period revealed that the temperatures of the Tsimane went down about 0.09°F per year. Today, they are at about 97.7°F.
Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology from UC Santa Barbara, who led the research, commented that "in less than two decades we're seeing about the same level of decline as that observed in the U.S. over approximately two centuries."
The large study involved 18,000 observations of 5,500 adults and adjusted for factors that could have affected the body heat like outside temperature or body mass. They also used the same type of thermometer throughout, to make sure the instrument wasn't the issue.
Adjusting for various factors, they sought to figure out the reason for the decrease which was consistently noticed. They conjectured that fewer infections as a result of better hygiene, cleaner conditions, vaccinations, and improved medical treatments were possibly responsible for their find.
While such possibilities are there, they did not account fully for the observations. Chances are, a combination of influences is responsible for the lower temps. "Declines might be due to the rise of modern health care and lower rates of lingering mild infections now as compared to the past," Gurven shared. "But while health has generally improved over the past two decades, infections are still widespread in rural Bolivia. Our results suggest that reduced infection alone can't explain the observed body temperature declines."
Some additional explanations offered by Gurven include the fact that we now have better anti-inflammatory drugs and even the advancements in air conditioning.
"While Tsimane body temperatures do change with time of year and weather patterns, the Tsimane still do not use any advanced technology for helping to regulate their body temperature," Gurven explained. "They do, however, have more access to clothes and blankets."
It should be noted that the study looked at average temperatures, and physicians do not think there is truly one temperature that everyone should have. What's considered "normal" is really a range of temperatures that depends on the individual. Still, the information is valuable in pointing to the population's overall health.
Check out the new paper in Sciences Advances.
A new report highlights the increasing violence faced by environmental activists around the world.
A new report by the nonprofit group Global Witness highlights the increasing dangers that environmentalists face around the world. At least 200 people were murdered last year for protecting the land, water and wildlife of their communities.
The report documents abuses in 24 countries, citing that these murders are rarely prosecuted.
One of the worst incidents involved the murder of park rangers in Virunga National Park in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 150 rangers have been killed there in the past decade, as they try to guard against poaching. The park is home to some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world.
“We have strict criteria for documenting murders of land and water defenders but many other killings go unreported,” said Billy Kyte, campaign leader for Global Witness, to National Geographic. “Our report is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s really happening.”
He pointed out that there’s little data on similar travesties taking place in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Europe and Africa.
The report also points to the growing criminalization and harassment of protestors in the U.S. It specifically singles out the standoff at the Standing Rock Indian reservation in North Dakota last year for the number violent episodes involving militarized police and the National Guard. North Dakota is actually close to passing a law that would allow drivers to run over and kill environmental protesters without jail time. 18 other states are considering similar actions aimed at protestors.
Military veterans march in support of the 'water protectors' at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 5, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Globally, the killings of environmental activists fits into the picture of governments increasingly using violence to curb dissent. Countries with pro-business governments is where the murders of protestors can be found most commonly, with one of the worst being Brazil. Global Witness found that 49 people were murdered by loggers and large land owners in the Amazon last year. Other nations cited were Nicaragua, Colombia, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While Kellyanne Conway spoke of a nonexistent massacre, there was a real, historical massacre that took place at Bowling Green - in New York City.
President Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway has been taken to task for using another "alternative fact" media talking point. To defend Trump's travel ban on citizens of 7 Muslim-majority countries, she brought up "the Bowling Green massacre", a supposed terrorist act committed by Iraqi refugees in 2011. She offered it as the reason for President Obama's subsequently increased vetting and restrictions on Iraqi refugees, an action the Trump administration is using as a sort of historical parallel to its thinking.
“I bet it's brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” said Conway to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Conway brought up this “massacre” in several interviews with outlets like MSNBC, TMZ and Cosmopolitan. The only trouble is - such a massacre did not take place. What did happen in 2011 is that two Iraqi citizens were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky for trying to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq. While they presented a threat, these men did not manage to carry out any “massacre”.
“Two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined ISIS, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers' lives away,” is how Conway presented her version of the “massacre” to Cosmo.
Kellyanne Conway prepares to appear on the Sunday morning show Meet The Press, from the north lawn at the White House, January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
After much outrage and ridicule, including someone managing to quickly set up a mock website to accept donations for “victims” of the “massacre”, Conway admitted she “misspoke” and tried to downplay this incident of historical inaccuracy.
But history provides an ironic extension of the story - there actually was a real Bowling Green Massacre. A largely forgotten one, probably because it involves a topic often omitted from the conversation - the past of the original inhabitants of this continent. In 1643, it was indeed a set of “immigrants” - actually the colonizing Dutch, who massacred the native population, the Lenape tribe, in the territory of what is now Bowling Green Park in New York City.
As reported by Steven Newcomb of Indian Country Today, the Dutch, who controlled the colonial area they called New Amsterdam (later to become New York), killed 30 Lenape people in the Bowling Green area on the tip of Manhattan, and another 80 in what is now Pavonia, New Jersey. The massacre was ordered by the governor of New Netherlands, one Willem Kieft, who'd been ratcheting up the tensions with the Lenape tribe that refused to pay tribute payments. Fearful of the large number of natives nearby, Kieft was building up to a war and the massacre he orchestrated precipitated just that.
Redraft of the Castello Plan New Amsterdam in 1660, John Wolcott Adams (1874–1925) and I.N. Phelps Stokes (1867–1944). New-York Historical Society Library, Maps Collection.
On the night of February 25, 1643, a force of 129 Dutch attacked groups of Lenape refugees, who were fleeing another tribe, the Mahicans (aka Mohicans), on the tip of Manhattan and across the river in Pavonia. The Dutch slaughtered without distinction, including many women and children.
The witnesses described the horrors of that day like this, as recounted by another contemporary Dutchman David Pietersz de Vries:
I remained that night at the Governor’s, sitting up, and I went and sat by the kitchen fire, when about midnight I heard a great shrieking, and I ran to the ramparts of the fort, and looked over to Pavonia. Saw nothing but firing, and heard the shrieks of the savages murdered in their sleep. . . When it was day the soldiers returned to the fort, having massacred or murdered eighty Indians, and considering they had done a deed of Roman valor, in murdering so many in their sleep; where infants were torn from their mother’s breasts, and hacked to pieces in the presence of their parents, and the pieces thrown into the fire and in the water, and other sucklings, being bound to small boards, were cut, stuck and pierced, and miserably massacred in a manner to move a heart of stone.
Some were thrown into the river, and when the fathers and mothers endeavored to save them, the soldiers would not let them come on land but made both parents and children drown–children from five to six years of age, and also some old and decrepit persons. Those who fled from this onslaught, and concealed themselves in the neighboring sedge, and when it was morning, came out to beg a piece of bread, and to be permitted to warm themselves, were murdered in cold blood and tossed into the fire or the water. Some came to our people in the country with their hands, and some with their legs cut off, and some holding their entrails in their arms, and others had such horrible cuts and gashes, that worse than they were could never happen. (Herbert C. Kraft, The Lenape: Archaeology, History, and Ethnography, Newark, 1986, pp. 223-224)
"Massacre of Indians at Pavonia", 1643. From History of the City of New York from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time by Mary L. Booth, 1859 (Courtesy of the New York Public Library)
The inhuman incident united the indigenous people in the area and a full-out war broke out, known historically as Kieft’s War. It lasted over two years, with thousands dead, mostly native.
Certainly, as the episode with the nonexistent Bowling Green Massacre represents, the Trump administration will use all manner of rhetoric to support its points, invented history included. And real history unfortunately warns that stoking fears of outsiders on the basis of national security often leads to violence, with the powerful generally abusing and exterminating the weak, not the other way around.