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Old 04-09-2002, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Livonia, Michigan
Posts: 361
Do humans eat anything inorganic?

I've searched the boards from three monthes ago. I didn't find anything on the topic.

Let's pretend that I'd like to take vegetarianism a little bit further. No meat or plants. Because well, plants have feelings too! No dairy products or mad-made foods, either; that's cheating. So now for a few questions...
  • What foods are there that are inorganic?
  • Is it save to eat a (non-fossilized) rock?
  • What does a rock taste like?
  • What kind of vitamins does aluminum foil have?
  • How long could one live if they only ate salt and water?
  • Has anyone ever tried this?
I realize that gnawing on a rock might now be so good for the teeth, but could I just swallow pebbles or smaller rocks whole? I don't ever plan on doing this, I'm not even vegetarian. I'm just curious. Thank you for listening to my ridiculous questions...
-Yo La Tengo

It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.
Old 04-09-2002, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 6,406
Well, plants and animals also contain the inorganic nutrients that we need, which are the minerals. If you don't eat enough veggies or meat, a multi-vitamin supplies these minerals.

Minerals are not needed in huge quantities, compared with your need for carbohydrates and proteins, which are organic molecules.

Only eating salt and water, I don't think one would survive a long time problem free. Sure, if it's surviving and there's nothing else you can eat that until they rescue you(hopefully soon enough to have major problems), but it lacks organic nutrients plus many of the minerals you need. You lack iron, calcium, maybe potassium, and others.
Old 04-09-2002, 04:33 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Plano, Texas, USA
Posts: 1,987
Inorganic? Ever eaten a Twinkie?
Old 04-09-2002, 04:35 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: a cave in central Ohio.
Posts: 1,888
Salt (as metioned before) is inorganic. Something else I found is Calcium Carbonate (chalk, you'll find it in Tums). It could be fossilized, and then voiding your question, but it can also be produced chemically. Hope this helps!
Old 04-09-2002, 05:23 PM
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Happyland
Posts: 12,606
Damn you Kilt I was gonna use White Castle for my answer but you stole my thunder. Cecil did an article about living just on water, but my connect is soooo slow, you are going to have to perform the search.
Old 04-09-2002, 05:31 PM
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: New York, New York!
Posts: 2,461
I don't know about plain salt and water, but I know a group of hunger strikers in Turkey have lived for an extremely long time (approximately a year in some cases) on a very regulated diet of water, a little salt, and a little sugar. The sugar's organic, of course.
Old 04-09-2002, 05:32 PM
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If you're going to eat rock, don't chew it too much.
Old 04-09-2002, 06:39 PM
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 548
Every cell in your body requires glucose (or ATP, which is made from glucose) in order to function. Glucose, unfortunately, is a carbohydrate, and organic. Inorganic materials can never provide you with any energy. When you don't eat organic materials, your body consumes reserves, or itself.
Old 04-09-2002, 06:42 PM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Chicago
Posts: 1,640
If you didn't care to eat plants, you still have fungi, bacteria, and protists to live off of. How about some mushrooms, some Vegemite (that's made out of brewer's yeast, right? I'm sure one of the Teeming Handful will correct me), and blue-green algae.

What about honey? Not made of animals (though, if you're discounting dairy, I could see why you'd discount honey).

Oh, and vitamins are organic compounds (in that they contain carbon). So aluminum foil wouldn't have any vitamins. It would be one big mineral--aluminum (though probably with some Al2O3 thrown in).
Old 04-09-2002, 07:12 PM
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There're calories in plenty of things, but you won't be able to actually use the calories in anything inorganic. If you avoid all organic substances, then you will assuredly starve.

Note that this is using the chemist's definition of "organic", as any compound (except perhaps CO2) containing carbon. This allows them to avoid all those difficult questions like whether virii are alive, or if a substance is still organic if synthesized in the lab. If you're just interested in the origin of your meal, though, simple sugars (and in principle, many more complicated carbon compounds) can be synthesized in the lab, and you might be able to live on sugar for a while.
Old 04-09-2002, 07:34 PM
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,361
Every cell in your body requires glucose
not true - most can function very well on fat->ketones and for that matter the body can create all the glucose it needs if given enough dietary protein. This is the basis of the Atkins diet and has been a staple for early man (and continues to be so in some more primitive cultures i.e. eskimos)

You body needs a source of fuel which can be carbs but doesn't have to be. protein and fats are required for long term health. I really don't see how you can get these things without eating other living things. Perhaps you can go on a placenta diet.
Old 04-09-2002, 08:19 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Big Rock Candy Mountain
Posts: 1,149
Originally posted by Trucido
Inorganic materials can never provide you with any energy.
I'm going to quibble with this point. If you mean to say, the body does not break down inorganic substances to yield energy, then I agree with you. However, where I would stop agreeing with you is if you mean that inorganic compounds aren't involved in the liberation of energy. We'd be dead meat without inorganics. Iron is an indispensible component of the oxygen carrying pigment, hemoglobin, magnesiun ions are often arranged in coordinate complexes in metabolic enzymes, and calcium ion is the primary stimulant of smooth, skeletal and cardiac muscle contraction.

In addition, the "life cannot use inorganics for fuel" rule is by no means universal. Hydrogen sulfide is fuel for deep sea vent bacteria.
Old 04-09-2002, 08:54 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Cambridge. No, the UK one
Posts: 4,272
Ummm... If you lived off fungi, wouldn't that be as bad or worse, because they tend to live off plants?

I think fruitarians try and manage on things like ripe fruit, and nuts and stuff, a lot because they don't want to hurt even plants, and the plant naturally drops these anyway.

This makes me think:

-Fair play to them - they're really standing up for something.
-I wonder how much plants really do get hurt by being eaten?
-I bet they don't go to many dinenr parties (vegans find it very difficult).
-And (with aplologies) I wonder just who they point at when saying 'nut-cases'?

Also you could try and build organic stuff from inorganic stuff with sunligh, electricity, etc. Kind of like an artificial cholorplast. Don't know if that'd count as alive.
Old 04-09-2002, 10:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 6

who cares? why would you want to avoid eating all living things, anyway? moral reasons? when morality goes against nature (and fess up, eating organic material is natural), then bad things happen. it's just not a very good idea. just look at the effects of imposed chastity on catholic clergy members.

by the way, i'm a reformed vegetarian, so i'm not some kind of closed-minded argumentationist.

aging hipsters' retirement home
Old 04-10-2002, 12:06 AM
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 548
K2dave, those fats and proteins are all turned to glucose in the digestion process. Your cells have no way to utilize fats and proteins before that point. It all goes to glucose, an organic molecule, in the end. The body can only create glucose from a limited range of organic compounds.

choosybeggar, I stand by my assertion that the body does not convert inorganic substances into energy. Though they may be used in the process, inorganic substances do not become energy, as energy for the body must eventually break down to ATP for use.
Old 04-10-2002, 01:19 AM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: The City State of Noosphere
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To my knowledge, fat is not converted to glucose before it is metabolized.
Old 04-10-2002, 01:31 AM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: The City State of Noosphere
Posts: 3,540
This is a nice summary of the beta oxidation process, in which fatty acids are broken down for energy.
Old 04-10-2002, 01:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 1,475
That depends on what the fat is going to be used for... if it's to be used as energy it undergoes a series of conversions. Here's a simple answer, here's a brainiac's answer
Old 04-10-2002, 05:44 AM
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 18,361
Trucido fats are not broken down to glucose and most cells do not need glucose anyway - they are a totally seperate fuel source, however glucose can be converted to fat for long term storage. They are broken down to fatty acids glycerol and finally keytones.

Protein can be converted to glucose. Glucose is needed for certain cells to function and if you lack enough carbs to use as fuel your body will manufacture glucose for those cells. The cells that have a choice would rather run on fat. On a low carb diet the protien that is converted is from dietary sources - if the small amount of carbs you eat is not enough. In cases of starvation the protein is aquired through breakdown of your cells.
Old 04-10-2002, 08:53 AM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 16,823
While its not directly on topic, there are mental disorders which bring people to eat dirt or such. And slaves in the Antebellum South have been recorded as eating dirt, presumably due to particular defifiencies in their diet (which didn't particularly result from neglect but rather from poorly understood nutrition).
Old 04-10-2002, 09:14 AM
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 7,313
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Quarry Cereal. "It's Better Because It's Mined."

Of course, this is the group that generally failed to mention John Belushi in its all-time SNL cast, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that no one remembers the bit.
Old 04-10-2002, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 7,313
And let's hope you don't have any fillings in your teeth when you start eating aluminum foil - I cringe just thinking about that feeling.
Old 04-10-2002, 11:55 AM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 41,528
I'm sure people eat a lot of inorganic things, mostly unintentially. Salt has already been mentioned. I might add potassium chloride, which is used as a "salt substitute". I remember reading in Natural History magazine about folks who used to add marble dust (!) to flour to make it whiter. I understand that other inorganic substances are deliberately added to foods for non-nefarious purposes as well.

Some inorganic substances are poisonous, of course, and they're generally bad-tasting, which is presumably a survival trair born of natural selection. One substance, however, tastes sweet -- I'm told. Lead Acetate used to be called "Sugar of Lead". Nasty stuff.
“Of course,” said my grandfather, stepping from the Time Machine and pulling a gun from his belt, “There’s no paradox if I shoot you!”
Old 04-10-2002, 07:55 PM
Join Date: Feb 2001
Posts: 1,475
Hey yeah - doesn't/didin't at least one brand of cereal add small iron filings (which you could supposedly pick out and see with a white magnet) to it's product to bring it up to the recomended amount of dietary iron? I saw it somewhere... I think it was here.
Old 04-10-2002, 10:27 PM
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mmmiiikkkeee, why not try it for yourself?Use a magnet!
Old 04-10-2002, 10:28 PM
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And this time, this link might NOT have a typo in it.
Old 04-10-2002, 11:05 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Gallatin, TN
Posts: 21,676
You could always follow the philosophy of this guy and not eat anything at all!
***Don't ask me, I don't post here any more, and I'm probably not even reading this now.***

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