Sep 16 2017

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

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Why Onions Make You Cry


Trying to figure out why humans cry is exhausting. We cry about death, violence, breakups, abandoned puppies, sweet kisses and words charged with all kinds of meanings. We don’t cry when we should, and we cry for no reason. But let’s take a moment to appreciate the clarity of crying while cutting onions.

Onions make us teary because a reaction in the onion releases a chemical called lachrymatory factor, or LF, that irritates our eyes. Simply peeling an onion won’t make your eyes water. But if you chop, cut, crush or smash one — boohoo. The onion’s cells break open, allowing two normally separated substances to combine. Linked together like pieces of a puzzle, they become a potent chemical weapon. [..]

Lachrymatory factor evolved as a defense mechanism, protecting onions against microbes and animals like us, even if we’ve learned to bear tears for the sake of flavor. Damaging an onion basically causes it to ramp up its defenses: as cells break, the chemical reaction is unlocked.

Inside the intact cells of an onion, a molecule called sulfenic acid precursor floats around the watery filler like a napping human in a lazy river. Also floating in that cytoplasm are little sacs called vacuoles, containing a protein called alliinase, which is like a little drill sergeant of the process. [..]

Only two other plants are known to contain LF: guinea hen weed, (Petriveria alliacea) and Sicilian honey garlic (Allium siculum), but you’re far less likely to encounter them. By contrast, the average American eats about 20 pounds of onions a year.

That makes for a lot of onion sobbing. And while some people cry more than others, it’s unclear why. It’s also unclear why some varieties seem to be more tolerable than others. Dr. Golczak said potency might depend on freshness, amount of LF produced or even a mutation that would alter LF’s activity.

But is it possible to avoid the onion feelies? [..]

With regular onions, there are options: chuck your onion in the fridge before you cut it, or submerge it in water while chopping. Reducing the temperature will slow down the reaction, resulting in less LF. And in water, LF gases will dilute, becoming less potent. These tactics also alter the flavor, by impairing the processes that produce it — similar to what happens with chilled tomatoes.

Unfortunately, it seems there’s no simple way to avoid it. For the love of onions, sometimes you just have to cry.

Joanna Klein, New York Times

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