What’s the final tally, eating-dead-skin-cells-wise? Laying on our deathbeds, will be ever be able to know the precise poundage of flesh we’ve eaten in a lifetime? For this week’s Giz Asks, we turned to a number of reputable dermatologists for some answers. It is maybe not so surprising that, as we learned, no serious scholar has devoted any research to getting a proper estimate on this one. But our experts gamely arranged their own equations.
Dr. Johann E. Gudjonsson
Professor of Skin Molecular Immunology and Associate Professor of Dermatology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
To my knowledge, nobody has actually tried to measure this, but I guess it depends on whether you bite your nails or not. If you do, I’d expect it to be a lot over the course of an entire lifetime—probably up to at least few hundred grams, if not more. But if you don’t, then probably not more than a few grams.
You also have to take into account that the inside of your mouth, down to the opening of the stomach, is covered in what’s called stratified epithelia—similar to but not the same as the skin—and so that will add quite substantially to this amount over one’s entire lifetime.
Are we ingesting other people’s skin cells, too?
As for other people’s skin cells—That’s probably a bit hard to classify. Fomites [i.e., nonliving objects capable of carrying infection] are all over the place, and these carry dead skin cells, as well as breakdown products of skin—so yes, I think you’d be inhaling and ingesting other people skin to some extent. But probably much more from your own household members than from anybody else.
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