Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Have you ever wondered why your teeth chatter when you're cold, or if you could really catch a disease from sitting on a toilet seat?
New York physician Billy Goldberg, pestered by unusual questions at cocktail parties and other social gatherings over the years, puts the public's mind at ease in his book "Why Do Men Have Nipples?" which hits the book stores on Tuesday.
"It's really remarkable how often you get accosted," said Goldberg, 39. "There are the medical questions from family and friends, and then there are the drunk and outrageous questions where somebody wants to drop their pants and show you a rash or something."
The book, subtitled, "Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini," (Three Rivers Press), is co-authored by humorist Mark Leyner.
"People tend to know so little about their bodies as compared to their cars or their laptops," said Leyner, 49, of Hoboken, New Jersey. "When I worked in a pharmacy in Washington, D.C., people would ask me medical questions all the time. I was just a 22-year-old cashier at Rite Aid."
Chattering teeth is one way the body tries to generate heat.
When the body gets too cold, the area of the brain called the hypothalamus alerts the rest of the body to begin warming up. Shivering, the rapid muscle movement that generates heat, then begins. Teeth chattering represents localized shivering.
During the course of their research, Goldberg and Leyner found reports of gonorrhea, pinworm and roundworm found on toilet seats -- but catching something from it isn't common.
The authors discovered that an office setting might be worse for your health than toilet seats. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, found the typical office desk harbors some 400 times more disease-causing bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Goldberg had compiled a list of nagging questions for several years before embarking on the book after meeting Leyner. The two met while working on a short-lived ABC-TV medical drama, "Wonderland," in which Leyner served as a writer, while Goldberg was its medical advisor.
Some of the burning questions answered in the humorous book include "What causes morning breath?" and "Why do beans give you gas?"
Goldberg says morning breath results from anaerobic bacteria, the xerostomia (dry mouth) or the volatile sulfur compounds (which are waste products from the bacteria). Other contributing factors to foul oral odor includes medication, alcohol, sugar, smoking, caffeine, and eating dairy products.
Beans contain high percentages of sugars that our bodies are unable to digest, Goldberg explains. When the sugars make it to the intestines, bacteria go to work and start producing large amounts of gas.
And if you're ever bitten by a poisonous snake, sucking at the bite to remove the poison, as often shown in the movies and on TV is not only ineffective, but could lead to an infection.
Instead, the bite should be washed with soap and water and immobilized. The bitten area should also be kept lower than the heart. Medical help should be sought immediately.
And why do men have nipples?
While only females have mammary glands, we all start out in a similar way in the embryo, the authors explain. The embryo follows a female template until about six weeks, when the male sex chromosome kicks in.
Men, however, have already developed nipples.


Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. To be removed from this e-mail program, reply back and say unsubscribe.