Thingish Things


Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 27•11

I’d rather die than eat dental plaque.

But that’s not going to slow scientists at the University of Nottingham who are playing around with calcified plaque these days to get at a compound within it called dextrans.

The scientists see dollar signs in this unappetizingly-named substance.  It apparently tricks the human brain into tasting the presence of salt, where there is none.

Dextrans could be the next Olestra.  Surely you remember Olestra, or Olean as it was popularly marketed. That was the artificial fat that  promised to let you eat Pop Tarts and Twinkies all day, and sit in the john all night – the stuff could strip a body of all its vitamins in a single seating.  Its effects were supposed to be seen as a small price to pay for fat-free gluttony, but the back end of the product proved prohibitive.

Enter dextrans. They could do for salt what Olean was supposed to do for fat — allow people who can’t tolerate it – or who just want to eat a ton of it – knock back bag after bag of pretzels, with no increased risk of stroke or heart attack and zero water retention. The only catch? You have to sprinkle on the pretzels crud scraped off of a stranger’s teeth.

I know discoveries like this are supposed to be exciting, but they just don’t do it for me. Especially when they involve teeth cleanings and adult diaper products.  I am willing to take my chances with salt and fat.

And yes, at some point in life, I will probably end up with high blood pressure, but I’ll live with it as long as I can, just like everyone else who has had high blood pressure since antiquity.  Chewing on salty-tasting teeth isn’t going to keep me from expiring.  My chances of dying will remain 100%, same as everyone else’s.

That said, I’m still bummed about Olean. I haven’t had a Twinkie in 25 years. I loved those little spongy bastards.


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