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Fun and Fast Factoids #2

By Amy Li

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Do you hate kale? What about broccoli? The kale craze has swept the nation over the past few years. Its health benefits have been heralded by experts and praised by health nuts. But did you know that kale is the same exact species as broccoli? Even Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and cabbage? Around 2500 years ago, the hardy biennial Brassica oleracea, or wild cabbage, grew in its wild form in parts of Europe and the Mediterranean. Brassica oleracea began undergoing generations of artificial selection, which resembles what we know to be kale. Variants of Brassica oleracea continued to derive from the single original species. Parallel variants can also be found in crab apples, the precursor to corn, and dog breeds. Although each plant appears to be different, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, and cabbage all share the same common ancestor and therefore have many similar health benefits. Consuming these plants provide your body with many different vitamins, prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, and anemia, and possibly deter cancer. Eat up!

How common is cannibalism in history? If you’ve taken a US history class, you have probably heard about the Donner Party, a group of pioneers setting out for California that became stranded in the winter and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Do humans have a natural proclivity for eating other humans? It turns out that different cultures avoid cannibalism because consumption of human brains can cause a prion, or misfolded protein, to take hold in the consumer. Kuru, a degenerative neurological disorder, is similar to mad cow disease. It began to infect and kill people in tribes of Papua New Guinea after tribal members consumed dead people. Research has also been found to have occurred in colonial Jamestown, during the Starving Time, or the winter of 1609. In Europe, the body components of deceased peoples was often used in medical treatments. Human fat was often used to treat bone problems and human bones were ground up and mixed with liquids to treat epilepsy. This time, don’t eat up!

Can you have a love addiction? Valentine’s Day may be behind us, but love is always around us. In recent studies, scientists have performed neurological scans and found that people who are falling in love have brain activity very similar to addictions, including drug and alcohol addiction. The ventral tegmental area and caudate nucleus in your brain goes through heightened activity. As a result, dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, is released much more frequently. Another study shows that people in love have lower levels of amygdala activity. The amygdala affects decision-making, and higher levels of activity occur during stressful situations or other important thought processes. Lower amygdala activity may lead people to be more positive and trustful.

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