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4 Future Gadgets That Could Alert You to Spoiled Food

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Americans waste a lot of food—some 35 million tons get thrown into the garbage each year. Part of this is just because consumers can’t figure out whether their food is still good or not. Food labels are confusing, and people understandably would rather toss their nearly-full gallon of orange juice after the date stamped on the bottle than risk ingesting something spoiled. It’s hard to tell whether that “best before” stamp means your product is actually unsafe after that date, or if it just might look a little less pretty than it did when it was brand new.

With better technology, however, those unreliable “use by” dates might not be needed at all. A sensor would be able to tell you whether your particular cut of chicken was still fine to eat, eliminating the need for a system that relies purely on how many days have passed since the item left the warehouse. Here are four perishable products that might soon come with their own freshness sensor: 

1. Eggs

In 2012, a Tufts University scholar created an edible silk sensor that sticks directly onto food to monitor the freshness of bananas, eggs, cheese, and milk. It can pick up on chemical and tactile changes that indicate that the food is less than fresh, so that you don’t end up with a fridge that smells like rotten eggs. 

2. Fruit

Grocers ideally want to sell their ripest fruit first, since once their produce starts rotting, they have to throw it away. To help keep food from being wasted, chemists at MIT created a tiny sensor that can monitor the ripeness of fresh fruit by detecting ethylene, the hormone released as fruit matures. These computer-chip-sized sensors, unfortunately, aren’t edible. 

3. Meat

No one wants to splurge on a steak or salmon filet only to find it’s gone bad a day later. Earlier this year, those same chemists from MIT developed a portable sensor that detects the gases released when meat rots. The device could be used in packaging for meat and fish, providing real-time information about the product’s freshness instead of relying on a vague date. 

4. Milk

While it’s usually fairly easy to tell whether milk has gone sour by its scent, poking your nose in an old milk jug can also feel like being hit with a truck full of sewage. Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley and National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan are working on a smart sensor cap for milk cartons to alert you to spoilage wirelessly. Eventually, these caps could be used to monitor the freshness of perishables before they leave the supermarket shelves, helping customers know that they aren’t going home with sour cream rather than 2 percent.  

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Can You Really Lose Weight by Pooping? It Depends on What You Eat
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If you’re obsessed with either your scale or your bowel movements, you’ve probably wondered: How much of my weight is just poop? A teenage cousin of mine once spent an entire restaurant dinner arguing that he could lose up to 3 pounds if you just gave him a few minutes to sit on the toilet. As you might imagine, he was wrong. But not by that much, according to Thrillist, a site that’s been truly dominating the poop science beat lately.

You can indeed see the effects of a truly satisfying bowel movement reflected on your bathroom scale. (Wash your hands first, please.) But how much your feces weigh depends heavily on your diet. The more fiber you eat, the heavier your poop. Unfortunately, even the most impressive fecal achievement won't tip the scales much.

In 1992, researchers studying the effect of fiber intake on colon cancer risk wrote that the daily movements of poopers across the world could vary anywhere from 2.5 ounces to 1 pound. In their sample of 220 Brits, the median daily poop weighed around 3.7 ounces. A dietary intake of around 18 grams of dietary fiber a day typically resulted in a 5.3-ounce turd, which the researchers say is enough to lower the risk of bowel cancer.

A Western diet probably isn’t going to help you achieve your poop potential, mass-wise. According to one estimate, industrialized populations only eat about 15 grams of fiber per day thanks to processed foods. (Aside from ruining your bragging rights for biggest poop, this also wreaks havoc on your microbiome.) That's why those British poops observed in the study didn't even come close to 1 pound.

Poop isn’t the only thing passing through your digestive tract that has some volume to it. Surprisingly, your fabulous flatulence can be quantified, too, and it doesn’t even take a crazy-sensitive machine to do so. In a 1991 study, volunteers plied with baked beans were hooked up to plastic fart-capturing bags using rectal catheters. The researchers found that the average person farts around 24 ounces of gas a day. The average fart involved around 3 ounces of gas.

This doesn’t mean that either pooping or farting is a solid weight-loss strategy. If you’re hoping to slim down, losing a pound of poop won’t improve the way your jeans fit. Certainly your 24 ounces of gas won't. But to satisfy pure scientific curiosity, sure, break out that scale before and after you do your business. At least you'll be able to see if your fiber intake is up to snuff.

[h/t Thrillist]

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Why You Get Diarrhea When You're Hungover
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If your hangover mornings involve a lot of time sitting on the toilet, you're not alone. In addition to making you puke your guts out, drinking too much can also give you massive diarrhea the next day. Why? Thrillist talked to a gastroenterologist about the hangover poops, and found that it's a pretty common phenomenon, one caused by a combination of unusually fast-moving digestion.

When you drink, Urvish Shah told the site, alcohol increases what's called gut motility, the contractions that move food along your gastrointestinal tract. Combine this with the fact that booze inhibits vasopressin—the hormone that regulates water retention and prevents your kidneys from immediately dumping whatever liquid you drink into your bladder—and suddenly your guts have become a full-blown water slide.

All those cocktails take a fast-paced thrill ride down to your colon, where your gut bacteria throw a feast. The result is a bunch of gas and diarrhea you don't usually get when food and water are passing through your system a little more slowly. And because it's all rushing through you so fast, the colon isn't absorbing as much liquid as usual, giving you even more watery poops. If you haven't eaten, the extra acidity in your stomach from the booze can also irritate your stomach lining, causing—you guessed it—more diarrhea.

The more concentrated form of alcohol you drink, the worse it's going to be. If you really want to stay out of the bathroom the morning after that party, go ahead and take it easy on the shots. Because beer is so high in carbohydrates, though, Thrillist warns that that will cause gas and poop problems too as the bacteria in your gut start going to town on the undigested carbs that make it to your colon.

All in all, the only way to avoid a post-alcohol poop is to just stop drinking quite as much. Sorry, folks. If you want to rule Saturday night, you'll have to deal with the Sunday morning runs.

[h/t Thrillist]

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