Three lines of evidence point to the idea of complex, multicellular alien life being a wild goose chase. But are we clever enough to know?
- Everyone wants to know if there is alien life in the universe, but Earth may give us clues that if it exists it may not be the civilization-building kind.
- Most of Earth's history shows life that is single-celled. That doesn't mean it was simple, though. Stunning molecular machines were being evolved by those tiny critters.
- What's in a planet's atmosphere may also determine what evolution can produce. Is there a habitable zone for complex life that's much smaller than what's allowed for microbes?
Protozoa—a term for a group of single-celled eukaryotes—and green algae in wastewater, viewed under the microscope.
Credit: sinhyu via Adobe Stock<p>Another way the story of life on Earth might not get repeated elsewhere in the cosmos relates to the composition of planetary atmospheres. Our world did not begin with its oxygen-rich air. Instead, oxygen didn't show up until almost two billion years after the planet formed and one billion years after life appeared. Earth's original atmosphere was, most likely, a mix of nitrogen and CO2. Remarkably it was life that pumped the oxygen into the air as a byproduct of a novel form of photosynthesis invented by a novel kind of single-celled organism, the nucleus-bearing eukaryotes. The appearance of oxygen in Earth's air was not just a curiosity for evolution. Life soon figured out how to use the newly abundant element and, it turns out, oxygen-based biochemistry was supercharged compared to what came before. With more energy available, evolution could build ever larger and more complex critters.</p><p>Oxygen may also be unique in allowing the kinds of metabolisms in multicellular life (especially ours) needed for making fast and fast-thinking animals. Astrobiologist <a href="http://faculty.washington.edu/dcatling/Catling2008CatalystMag.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">David Catling</a> has argued that only oxygen has the right kind of chemistry that would allow for animals to form on any world.</p><p>Atmospheres may play another role in what can and can't happen in the evolution of life. In 1959, <a href="https://astro.uchicago.edu/alumni/su-shu-huang-1949.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Su-Shu Huang</a> proposed that each star would be surrounded by a "<a href="https://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/habitable-zones-of-different-stars" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">habitable zone</a>" of orbits where a planet would have temperatures neither too hot nor too cold to keep life from forming (i.e. liquid water could exist on the planet's surface). Since then, the habitable zone has become a staple of astrobiological studies. Astronomers now know that the outer part of the habitable zone will be dominated by worlds with lots of greenhouse gases like CO<em>2</em>. A planet in a location like Mars, for example, would require a thick CO2 blanket to keep its surface above freezing. But all that CO2 could present its own problems for life. Almost all forms of animal life on Earth, including sea creatures, die when placed in CO2-rich environments. This has led astronomer <a href="https://eschwiet.github.io/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eddie Schwieterman</a> and colleagues to propose a <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/ab1d52" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">habitable zone for complex life</a>: A band of orbits where planets can stay warm without requiring heavy CO2 atmospheres. According to Schwieterman, animal life of the kind we know would only be able to form in this much thinner band of orbits. </p>
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="7afb5c6e8d10c589ef1c04cca0fedd4a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="6011693c1aec050d4574453803d807fa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
How do these little beasties detect light anyway?
Photoreceptors and optogenetics<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5MjgyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTI2MDY1NH0.-6sF7JMwIGoHA7uaHQbyYuNMPDNyC6MksR07LTRZHOw/img.jpg?width=980" id="faa85" width="1440" height="1080" data-rm-shortcode-id="3d7b2593eaa448556f4381f8dd0b27fd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: ktsdesign/Adobe Stock<p>Aside from being fascinating in their own right, these little "light switches" are likely to be of great interest to people working in <a href="https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2017.00051" target="_blank">optogenetics</a>, a <a href="https://www.scientifica.uk.com/learning-zone/optogenetics-shedding-light-on-the-brains-secrets" target="_blank">transformative</a> area of scientific research.</p><p>This combination of optical technologies and genetics is giving researchers new insights into the workings of the brain, allowing them to, for example, turn on and off <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171113123803.htm" target="_blank">single neurons</a> as they explore the brain's myriad pathways and interactions. Optogenetics also holds promise for <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160420111154.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">better management of pain</a>, and has cast new light on <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180117131149.htm" target="_blank">brain motor decision-making</a>.</p><p>These new-found, naturally occurring photoreceptors may substitute for, or complement, human-made photoreceptors currently used in optogenetics. It's hoped that these newcomers will prove more sensitive and better equipped to respond to particular light wavelengths. Possibly because water filters out red light—the reason the ocean looks blue—the new photoreceptors are sensitive to blue and green wavelengths of light.</p><p>"This work dramatically expanded the number of photoreceptors — the different kinds of those on-off switches — that we know of," offers Armbrust.</p>
Finding the new photoreceptors<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5MjgzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzkwOTI0M30.S0S0EoCXuO8qi7Q0lytHQhC8ZEK_IAmo3mrMhNygnho/img.jpg?width=980" id="55a8c" width="640" height="480" data-rm-shortcode-id="31afc4982d28301e63f2845ae1e81087" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Dror Shitrit/Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology/University of Washington<p>The researchers identified the previously undiscovered groups of photoreceptors by analyzing RNA they'd filtered from seawater samples taken far from shore. The samples were collected every four hours over the course of four days from the Northern Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. One set of samples was collected from currents running about 15 meters beneath the surface. A second set sampled deeper down, gathering water from between 120 and 150 meters, in the "<a href="https://www.whoi.edu/know-your-ocean/ocean-topics/ocean-life/ocean-twilight-zone/" target="_blank">twilight zone</a>" where organisms get by with little sunlight.</p><p>Filtering the samples produced protists—single-celled organisms with a nucleus—measuring from 200 nanometers to one tenth of a millimeter across. Among these were light-activated algae as well as simple plankton that derive their energy from the organisms they consume.</p>
Under-appreciated, tiny drivers of sea health<p>The new photoreceptors help fill in at least one of the blanks in our knowledge of the countless floating communities of microscopic creatures in our seas, communities that have a far greater impact on our planet than many people realize.</p><p>Says Coesel, "Just like rainforests generate oxygen and take up carbon dioxide, ocean organisms do the same thing in the world's oceans. People probably don't realize this, but these unicellular organisms are about as important as rainforests for our planet's functioning."</p>
A new study suggests that maintaining gut health to avoid diabetes may be little simpler than previously believed.
- Four out of trillions of gut microbes have been identified as being especially important for health.
- The microbes may play a role in obesity that can result in type 2 diabetes.
- Understanding the microbes' roles may lead to new probiotics for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTQ5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NzQzNjgwNn0.Gq5CqC2OPB6pa7I4K1v1PicEcG5gskXKb-kh6FEUfPU/img.jpg?width=980" id="1c652" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="63dc46fc5f3b52cd25f89cd6834f20e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The problematic Western diet
Credit: Vasiliy/Adobe Stock<p><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin" target="_blank">Insulin</a></span> is a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose—a sugar found in many carbohydrates—by controlling its absorption into liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells. If there's too much glucose in the blood, insulin stores away the extra sugar in the liver for later use when your blood sugar is low, or if you need a jolt of energy.</p><p>With <a href="https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-2" target="_blank">type 2 diabetes</a>, the body no longer responds sufficiently to insulin. As a result, in an attempt to compensate and keep blood sugar at acceptable levels, the body increases its production of insulin, and this, over time, wears out the pancreas' ability to produce the hormone. At that point, the person requires injections of supplemental insulin to maintain blood sugar levels.</p><p>The most significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is being overweight, which is typically a product of insufficient exercise and diet. "Type 2 diabetes is in fact a global pandemic and the number of diagnoses is expected to keep rising over the next decade," study co-leader Andrey Morgun of OSU tells the university's <a href="https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/research-shows-few-beneficial-organisms-could-play-key-role-treating-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Newsroom</a>. Driving this is the rising percentage of people who are <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight" target="_blank">overweight</a>. "The so-called 'western diet' — high in saturated fats and refined sugars," says Morgun, "is one of the primary factors. But gut bacteria have an important role to play in modulating the effects of diet."</p>
Tracing dysbiosis<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTUxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDEzOTY2OX0.eXAjxosnEPKz0GKys-LJPS7exEl7Bj52bgafUHAC9SI/img.png?width=980" id="7e7cf" width="1440" height="810" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b8bbb00f78645a43f26b2be0219cb6e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Kathryn Cross/Ohio State University<p>The OSU study explores the microbial mechanism behind "dysbiosis," or microbiome imbalance, and its role in type 2 diabetes.</p><p>Co-author OSU's Natalia Shulzhenko says, "Some studies suggest dysbiosis is caused by complex changes resulting from interactions of hundreds of different microbes. However, our study and other studies suggest that individual members of the microbial community, altered by diet, might have a significant impact on the host."</p><p>The researchers used <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557635/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">transkingdom network analysis</a>, a recently developed data-driven, systems-biology methodology, to examine host-microbe interactions, looking for specific microbe species that might be involved in dysbiosis.</p><p>In fact, they found some. "The analysis pointed to specific microbes that potentially would affect the way a person metabolizes glucose and lipids," explains Morgun. "Even more importantly, it allowed us to make inferences about whether those effects are harmful or beneficial to the host. And we found links between those microbes and obesity." The first step was identifying four groups of closely related species, or operational taxonomical units (OTUs), that appeared to be associated with glucose management, and that may play a role in obesity as a precursor of type 2 diabetes.</p><p>The OTUs pointed to four microbial species in particular: <em>Lactobacillus johnsonii</em>, <em>Lactobacillus gasseri</em>, <em>Romboutsia ilealis</em>, and <em>Ruminococcus gnavus</em>. As Shulzhenko explains, "The first two microbes are considered potential 'improvers' to glucose metabolism, the other two potential 'worseners.' The overall indication is that individual types of microbes and/or their interactions, and not community-level dysbiosis, are key players in type 2 diabetes." (Previous research has also associated <em>Romboutsia ilealis</em>, or "<em>R. ilealis</em>", with obesity.)</p><p>That <em>Lactobacillus</em> is an improver is encouraging, as it's a species often found in existing probiotic supplements, yogurts, fermented foods, and some dairy products. Shulzhenko says that in "looking at all of the metabolites, we found a few that explain a big part of probiotic effects caused by Lactobacilli treatments."</p>
Of mice and men. And women.<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2MTU3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjUzODQ0Nn0.ng4zjkYhIX8qdERs5pBRnB-6A3omKxFR9026dT19-Sw/img.jpg?width=980" id="21fd2" width="1440" height="792" data-rm-shortcode-id="83ccffd8cad34f7ce4f2e37378cb7d1d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Christoph Burgstedt/Adobe Stock<p>To confirm their suspicions, the researchers performed an experiment with mice, putting them on the mouse equivalent of the Western diet, and then feeding them improver and worsener microbe species for eight weeks.</p><p>Mice that were fed the two<em> Lactobacilli</em> improvers proved healthier in two ways. Their liver health—specifically, the efficiency with which they metabolized lipids and glucose—was improved, and they wound up with a lower <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7140880/" target="_blank">fat mass index</a> rating.</p><p>Comparing the results of their mice experiment with data from previous research on humans, the pattern held. The presence of more improver microbes was correlated with a lower BMI, and a stronger presence of worsens was associated with a higher <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/index.html" target="_blank">BMI</a>. Says Shulzhenko, "We found <em>R. ilealis</em> to be present in more than 80% of obese patients, suggesting the microbe could be a prevalent <a href="https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pathobiont" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pathobiont</a> in overweight people."</p><p>The researchers hope that their findings can help lead to new prevention and treatment approaches for type 2 diabetes. Summarizes Morgun:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our study reveals potential probiotic strains for treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as insights into the mechanisms of their action. That means an opportunity to develop targeted therapies rather than attempting to restore 'healthy' microbiota in general."</p>
Unfortunately, "less is better" is not a catchy marketing slogan.
- For his new book, "Clean: The New Science of Skin," physician James Hamblin didn't shower for five years.
- Soap is a relatively simple concoction; you're mostly paying for marketing and scent.
- While hygiene is important, especially during a pandemic, Hamblin argues that we're cleaning too much.
Doctor hasn’t showered for five years | Today Show Australia<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="432f532849370c11dd84dcd583a96a82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m1rAD62Wscg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h2>An obsession with soap might be creating allergies</h2><p>In the quest to protect our children against bacteria, we might inadvertently create lifelong allergies. An uptick in peanut allergies is indicative of this trend. Our skin is the first line of defense against disease, and it knows how to protect itself. In fact, the organisms and bacteria that live on our skin are doing important work; the more we wash them away, the more susceptible we become to foreign invaders. </p><p>Nut allergies might only be one consequence of overwashing. Allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema might in part be caused (or provoked) by too many antibacterial soaps (or soap in general). As Hamblin writes, "Soaps and astringents meant to make us drier and less oily also remove the sebum on which microbes feed." </p><h2>Your skin is crawling with mites</h2><p>Speaking of foreign invaders, skin science verifies an old Buddhist idea: there is no self. As Hamblin puts it, "Self and other is less of a dichotomy than a continuum." In fact, "you" are a collection of organisms and bacteria, including <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3884930/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Demodex</em></a>. A half-millimeter in length, these "demon arachnids" are colorless and boast four pairs of legs, which they use to burrow into the skin on our face. </p><p>Yes, all of our faces.</p><p>While these mites were originally discovered in 1841, it wasn't until 2014 that a group of researchers in North Carolina used DNA sequencing to understand their impact. Though you might recoil at the suggestion, it turns out that these critters potentially act as natural exfoliants. While housing too many of these mites results in skin disease, your face is their home. If not for them you might be even more susceptible to breakouts and infections. </p><h2>Think unchecked capitalism is bad? Thank soap. </h2><p>Soap is chemically simple. Combine fat and alkali to create surfactant molecules. The fat can be animal- or plant-based—three fatty acids and a glycerin molecule create a triglyceride. Combine this mix with potash or lye, apply heat and pressure, and wait for the fatty acids to rush away from the glycerin. Potassium or sodium binds to fatty acids. That's soap. </p><p>You actually pay for scent and packaging. In 1790, the first patent in history was approved for an ash processing method that produced soap. It wasn't an immediate hit; the balance was off. Too much lye resulted in a lot of burnt skin. A century passed before companies convinced Americans regular washing was necessary. Thanks to ingenious marketing—we still have radio-inspired "soap operas" today, though barely—soap became a must-have. A luxury became a common good. </p><p>As with everything capitalism, a little doesn't generate much revenue. Marketers convinced the public that <em>a lot</em> was needed. As Hamblin phrases it, "Capitalism sells nothing so effectively as status. And if a little bit was good, a lot would be better." Soap infected mainstream consciousness. Soon, we needed a lot of everything, all thanks to simple chemistry.</p>
A little baby is reaching out of a bath tub to get at a tablet of Pear's soap. The drawing is entitled 'He won't be happy till he gets it'! (1888)
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images<h2>The skincare industry is almost entirely unregulated</h2><p>Hamblin tried another project for this book: he launched a skincare line. One day he went to Whole Foods and purchased raw ingredients: jojoba oil, collagen, shea butter, a few other things. After mixing them in his kitchen, he ordered glass jars and labels from Amazon. In total, he spent $150 (which included his company website) to launch <a href="http://www.brunsonsterling.com/" target="_blank">Brunson + Sterling</a>. He then posted two-ounce jars of Gentleman's Cream for $200 (on sale from $300!).</p><p>Hamblin didn't sell any jars, but that wasn't the point. At an expo, he noticed one-ounce jars of SkinCeuticals's C E Ferulic selling for $166, even though that topical acid is no more effective at improving health than eating an orange. Collagen is another hype machine. Drinking collagen does nothing for your skin as it's broken down by enzymes in your digestive tract. Even still, plenty of companies claim it gives you <a href="https://www.elle.com/uk/beauty/skin/a20764288/collagen-drinks-skincare/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">glowing skin</a> even though the charge is rubbish. </p><p>Even more incredibly, Hamblin didn't have to report any ingredients to the FDA. He also didn't need to note its effects or provide evidence of safety. He simply needed to apply for a business license. The FDA can't even make him (or anyone) recall products. The government's safety system relies on a code of honor—and there are plenty of businesses that are less than honorable. </p><p>Marketing and hype. Thanks, soap.</p><h2>Disinfectant decoy</h2><p>The ongoing joke about the happiness one derives from finding Clorox wipes in the supermarket will be with us for some time to come, as the CEO <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-clorox-wipes/clorox-wont-have-enough-disinfecting-wipes-until-2021-its-ceo-says-idUSKCN2501EU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> they won't have enough supply until 2021. That said, do we need to Clorox everything? Probably not, Hamblin suggests. In fact, for Clorox to work, you have to leave it on the surface for about 10 minutes. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The product isn't 'killing 99.9% of germs' in the way that anyone actually uses it—a quick wipe-down." </p><p>Hamblin suggests regularly wiping down your countertop with soap and water. Regularly killing germs isn't the healthiest practice. Similar to antibiotics, overuse makes cleaning products ineffective. Hamblin continues, "some chronic conditions seem to be fueled by the fact that so many of us are now not being exposed to <em>enough</em> to the world." </p><p>The takeaway: read beyond what's posted in bright shiny letters on the cover of cleaning products. And consider using them less than you might think you need. </p><h2>Animals smell. You're an animal.</h2><p>The soap advertisements that kicked off modern marketing relied on one concept: B.O. We think of body odor as a given, but that too is an invention. Our feet "smell" thanks to <em>Bacillus subtilis</em>. This bacteria has potent antifungal properties. Shoes weren't available for most of history, a period in which smelly feet bestowed a strong evolutionary trait. As Hamblin writes, we didn't evolve to <em>smell</em>, we evolved in harmony with protective microbes that we just happen to find unpleasant. </p><p>While a number of players in the wellness and skincare industries likely have good intentions, so much of what is sold is unnecessary, and even damaging. The marketing machine makes us feel "less than" in order to sell us products that complete us. As Hamblin concludes, evidence-based companies would take an opposite approach to skincare and hygiene: less is more. As that will never produce million-dollar companies, we continue to sacrifice health in the name of branding.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>