Also in this week's column:
- Was human skin really used in book binding?
- Does thumb-sucking run in families?
- How do I taste things?
Will eating crusts make your hair grow curly?
Asked by Jill Rogers of Perth, Western Australia
There is no medical evidence to support the myth that eating bread crusts will make your hair grow curly. Or change hair in any other way for that matter.
However, although having nothing to do with hair, it is true that the crust may be the healthiest part of bread. Compared to the lighter part of bread, the darker part of bread may produce more healthy antioxidants. These can help prevent the body absorbing harmful oxidising agents in the atmosphere such as ozone.
Curly hair or straight hair depends upon genes. The crust of bread has no bearing upon one's genetic make-up.
Although the origin of the myth that eating crusts can curl hair is unknown, it is thought to have emerged at least 300 years ago in Europe. At that time, survival was more precarious and starvation was much more of a real possibility for everyone.
People can lose their hair when very sick and starving. Healthy people were more likely to have enough to eat, including bread. It was also widely believed that healthy people had curly hair. Bread crusts and curly hair were seen as being somehow related.
Furthermore, it was a practice well into the 19th century for poor people to sell their hair to wig makers. The expression, "to sell one's hair for a crust", may have contributed to the myth that eating the crust has some effect upon hair.
Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org