Sushi Science   Leave a comment

Allow me to play insufferable liberal for a few paragraphs.

Some French scientists have discovered that some Japanese people possess a stomach bacteria that can digest seaweed , which is uncommon because algae have tough cell walls that people can’t typically digest. Japanese people and seaweed? It’s clearly diet-related, like cows being able to digest fiber, of course, and the French scientists hypothesize similarly.

“Bacteria in the guts of some Japanese people may have acquired the ability to digest seaweed because of the sushi their human hosts consume.”

Okay, one problem. Sushi, which is defined by it’s vinegary rice and seafood topping, doesn’t necessarily contain seaweed. Nori, Japanese seaweed sushi wrappers, are not an essential ingredient in sushi, but an optional one- you’re better off with wasabi and no nori than vise versa. In fact, it’s more westernized versions of sushi that more commonly contain seaweed. Furthermore, nori isn’t exclusively a sushi-binding food, it can be used as a general rice topping, for soup, garnish, or eaten by itself as a snack. Possible for a Japanese person with the algae-digesting bacteria to have never eaten guppy’s tail’s worth of sushi and have the bacteria? You betcha.

Sushi: a Japanese dish consisting of rice and fish, wrapped in seaweed.

It sounds like I’m being harsh on these guys for making such a hasty generalization, but they’re professional scientists, French or not. If that’s the state of science, it’s quite disappointing. If the thought process goes something along the lines of: We discovered algae-digesting bacteria. We were surprised to find it in some humans who happened to Japanese people. Stomach bacteria that digests stuff probably comes from the person’s diet, what do Japanese people eat? Sushi, duh…and that has seaweed in it! Case closed.

Man, I can be a scientist. Look at these guys’ thought process: “We were astonished,” said study co-author Mirjam Czjzek of the university’s Roscoff Biological Station. “But rather quickly, when we saw it was a Japanese sample, we got the connection.”

Japanese people = sushi, duh.

Never mind that a lot of their sushi has no seaweed, and a lot of their other food does. And if we find a bacteria that quickly metabolizes legumes in the stomach of a Mexican person, it’s because they eat burritos. Easy. And these guys don’t quit, they go on to insist about the subjects with the algae-digesting bacteria that “DNA was transferred to them from bacteria living on the nori seaweed that the Japanese were wrapping around their sushi.” Probably right after they did some karate and right before they committed ritual suicide.

Overall, what this article is telling me that something was discovered and how it came about is a complete mystery, the best available explanation being sushi, or at least the type wrapped in seaweed. Justin L. Sonnenburg, a Stanford University microbiologist admits, “This is something we don’t really know; we don’t understand how it happens that well.”

And you apparently don’t understand Japanese food very well either, Justin.


Posted April 12, 2010 by Wada in Uncategorized

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