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Should Men Sit Down to Pee?

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When Viggo Hansen, a county counselor from the Left Party in Sormland, Sweden, tried passing a law that required that men sit down to pee when using the public bathrooms, his motion caused a flood of reactions. Hansen argued when men sit down to pee it is better for public health because it reduces the splatter around the toilets and stops the spread of disease. Hansen is one of many—including the head of the environmental protection agency in Taiwan, Stephen Shen, who also tried mandating such an order—that believe errant urine is bad for public health. They argue that droplets of urine spread disease. But just how scientifically sound are these arguments? Is it actually better for men to sit down and pee?

“Urine is actually sterile,” says Benjamin Davies, an associate professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh. “There is no bacteria in it. You can drink urine.” (Though he's not advocating that anyone does take a swig of urine.) 

So puddles of urine might smell bad and look gross, but they won’t cause disease. But Hansen has another argument: Hansen claims that men who pee while sitting will fully empty their bladders, which is better for their prostates—and means they'll experience a longer, healthier sex life.

But again, Hansen's claims are totally off the mark. "This is total bullsh**," Davies says. "There is no relationship between voiding and sex life. I haven’t the slightest idea why it would improve your prostate. If you are a normal male your prostate muscles relax while you urinate.”

Bottom line: Completely healthy men experience no benefit by sitting to urinate instead of standing. Some conditions might mean it is easier for a man to fully empty his bladder if he sits down, but for the vast majority there is no difference between sitting and standing. However, some cultures prefer to sit rather than stand—almost half of all Japanese men sit to urinate. 

Davies believes that sitting is a cultural or psychological preference, not a health issue. “If you are tired," he says, "go ahead and sit.”   

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. But how does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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