5 Sneaky Ways The Modern World Is Destroying Your Body
Have you ever been watching a documentary about primitive Amazonian tribes and thought, "Wow, that guy has nice teeth?" Or wondered how humans evolved to have bad eyesight when, for thousands of years, the inability to see predators coming was surely an instant death sentence?
The truth is that our ancestors survived the same maladies that send you to the doctor every few months by hardly ever getting them at all. For you see ...
Tooth Decay Is Due To Recent Changes In The Human Diet
Given all of our sonic toothbrushes and chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwashes and bacon-flavored floss, it's easy to assume that we're living in a golden age of dental hygiene. But it turns out that, while your medieval ancestors may have had a much greater chance of tripping and falling face-first into a puddle of poo-scented death every time they stepped outside the house, they probably also had better teeth than you.
"The Plague may take our lives, but it'll never take our beautiful smiles!"
Strangely enough, it all comes down to the Industrial Revolution and what it did to our modern diets. Thanks to our rapidly increasing production capabilities, in a period of a few hundred short years, we've gone from almost no one being able to afford sugar to having a diet best described as "Skittles." It's important to note that sugar, in and of itself, doesn't hurt your teeth. But the bacteria in our mouths has an even bigger sweet tooth than we do, and when we eat too much of the blessed white stuff (and we always eat too much of it), those little buggers dig into an all-you-can-eat sugar buffet, which gives them a crippling case of the acid-splatter-shits (all over your mouth). And that stuff is straight-up terrible for your teeth's enamel.
All of this would have sounded like witchcraft to our great-great-great-grandparents, to whom the concept of tooth decay was almost as foreign as that of television or not giving toddlers whiskey and tobacco for their birthdays. Researchers have theorized that we've simply altered our lifestyle far too fast for evolution to keep up with -- our bodies evolved to maintain the perfect balance of oral bacteria, but the Industrial Revolution hyped those little bastards up on a sugar rush from which they've yet to come down.
Food with flavor was a hell of a drug.
Meanwhile, as we scramble to overcome this development by way of gulping down fluoride and mouthwashes, we may be doing even further damage to the delicate ecosystem that is our filthy cake hole. Mouthwashes simply napalm the shit out of the bacteria in our mouths (both good and bad), which is sort of like curing your nephew's Fun Dip fidgets by way of a flamethrower. So if we really want to battle tooth decay, perhaps we should toss aside the electric toothbrushes and instead dial our diet clocks back to the Middle Ages -- which shouldn't be too difficult, since according to Medieval Times, that just means you don't use a fork.
Nearsightedness Is Caused By Reading Too Much (Instead Of Going Outdoors)
Myopia, or nearsightedness, has exploded in the West over the past 40 years. In Asia, the condition has reached truly epidemic proportions -- within the span of a single generation, it's gone from affecting a small percentage of the population to, in certain demographics, affecting damn near all of the population. Show us a photo or news story with a large group of young Chinese people, and we'll show you something with more eyes than your local tarantula convention:
Only about one-eighth of the furry appendages, though.
Why all the sudden squintiness? Well, to trace myopia back to its earliest roots, it seems the condition sprung from our human need to escape the slavering iniquities awaiting us in that place that must now only be mentioned in a hushed whisper ("outdoors"). You see, much like Superman, your eyeballs derive their superpower from sunlight ("superpower" in this case meaning "ability to focus on anything beyond arm's length"). Studies have shown that spending too much of your youth indoors under weak, artificial lighting is all but guaranteed to doom you to a lifetime of haggling with LensCrafters cashiers.
"Ready in about an hour? But my porn's all blurry now!"
But humans have lived indoors for at least, like, a hundred years or more! And until recent decades, nearsighted people were still in the minority. So why the recent surge? The answer to that question lies in your pocket. As kids have transitioned from spending long hours indoors reading books to spending every single hour indoors staring at smartphones or tablets or video games, they've completely hosed any hope their eyeballs had of developing normally. To combat this, researchers in China are testing methods such as translucent classrooms and advising children to mash their fingers into their eye sockets to realign their Qi flow or some shit. But for those currently afflicted, it's already too late.
"If it works, it works. And if they poke one out, one less to worry about. Win/win."
Sadly, it seems that evolving into a race of Mr. Magoos is simply the unavoidable side effect of living in a future in which we each possess a handheld supercomputer capable of fulfilling our every imaginable want and need ... except, of course, for our need to not trip over the goddamn ottoman again.
Hearing Loss Is Mostly Due To The Invention Of Really Loud Machines
Unbeknownst to the majority of the American populace (because they couldn't hear the announcement, probably), our country is facing an explosion in hearing loss that will go down in history as The Great "Huh?" Plague of "What Damn Year Is It, Again?"
Half of all 75-year-olds are diagnosed with hearing disabilities. And far from being a simple side effect of old age or decades of drunken Q-Tip usage, the causes are nearly always of the preventable variety, ranging from such human advances as loud machinery (hearing loss is one of the leading occupational hazards worldwide) to free-time festivities such as loud concerts.
"WHO UNPLUGGED THEIR INSTRUMENTS? AND WHY'RE THEY ALL WHISPERING?"
If we could step away from your grandpa for a moment (much as you do each Thanksgiving after he's had one too many helpings), our elderly are far from the only ones affected. The majority of our veterans return from service with a raging case of tinnitus, the asshole little brother of hearing loss. A telltale sign of the eventual onset of hearing loss, tinnitus is reportedly accompanied by a faint but constant buzzing sound. It's not life-threatening in and of itself (assuming it doesn't cause you to stumble unknowingly into a swarm of killer bees), but it's been strongly correlated with neurological impairments in old age -- individuals with even slight auditory damage (so, you, statistically speaking) can expect a much greater chance of developing dementia. And now, a generation of graying metalheads is asking themselves if a lifetime of declining mental and emotional stability was really worth taking "Cum On Feel the Noize" literally.
So you say I got a funny face
I ... what's that about my face again?
Not only did humanity largely create this epidemic, we're doing pretty much fuck-all to prevent it. New cases are popping up earlier than in previous generations and, once again, your personal electronics are at least partially to blame. The rate of hearing loss in young people is considered a health crisis by doctors, who warn that a staggering 20 percent of teens -- teens -- suffer from auditory damage already. And while some amphibians and birds can spontaneously regenerate the ear cells responsible for hearing, in humans, this damage is depressingly permanent. So, kids, until science finds a way to transform you into a horrifying avian-human hybrid, it's probably time to admit that maybe not everyone at the intersection really needs to receive the benefit of your choice playlist after all.
Insomnia Is Caused By Artificial Lighting
Sleep disorders are an ever-growing concern in developed societies, and American and Australian scientists -- presumably while researching the issue at 3 a.m. -- are increasingly pointing their fingers at artificial light as the culprit. More specifically, they're pointing at the light your electronic devices are puking out like some kind of evil, sleep-eating devil worm.
To get to why that is, we first need to revisit a time when we were all running around in mammoth skins and whacking each other with clubs over prime cave space. Back then, the Sun going down was our signal to go to sleep, and because the night was dark and full of terrors, that's what we did. Our bodies evolved under the assumption that this rule would never change.
"No, honey, we can't turn it off. That's when the saber-toothed tigers strike."
But fast-forward a few millennia, and the introduction of artificial light made the line between day and night a little blurrier. Fast-forward even further and, much like birds who dive-bomb the ground or kamikaze into buildings when confused by unnatural light sources after sunset, the light produced by our technology has inappropriately diddled our pineal glands to the point where our internal clocks are all manner of fucked up.
That's because our phones and tablets emit blue light, and of all the shades, blue is the one that gets the most giggles out of throwing off our circadian clock. In a healthy hormonal system, when it gets dark, melatonin comes out to play. But a hormonal system that's been thrown off balance by too much nighttime screen-staring doesn't produce enough of that all-powerful sleep juice. This results in a perpetually worsening sleep cycle, like an ouroboros with a tattoo reading "holy shit, is that the alarm clock already?"
Hitting the snooze button lets you browse TVTropes for five more pages.
And this is more than an inconvenience: Nocturnal exposure to bright lighting has been demonstrated by Harvard researchers to have far-reaching effects, such as altering our blood sugar to unstable levels. And other research suggests that it contributes to health problems such as diabetes, mental illness, cancer, and heart disease. Yes, insomnia can straight-up murder your ass -- and no offense to our friends, but we have yet to read a late-night Facebook post that's worth dying for.
Everything That's Wrong With Your Feet Is Caused By Your Modern Lifestyle
If you're anything like the vast majority of Americans, you suffer from foot pain. But why? Is it because you have a job that requires standing on them for long hours? Is it because they're tasked with the Atlas-esque responsibility of supporting your godlike frame? Is it because you spend your spare time delivering spandex-encased spinning junk-kicks to Gotham's wrongdoers?
"Robin, you handle Riddler tonight. My dogs are barking."
Actually, it's because you wear shoes. Plantar fasciitis, Morton's neuroma, Haglund's deformity, hammertoe (not to be confused with Hammertime), corns ... all immensely painful conditions, all primarily caused by our footwear. And we're not just talking about consistently choosing your "fuck me" heels over your Crocs, debilitating nerve damage be damned; we're talking about shoes, period. Studies have indicated that non-shoe-wearing societies have drastically superior podiatric health than those in which both shirt and shoes are required for service. Not even athletic shoes possess the necessary flexibility to prevent your feet from feeling like you subjected them to a bargain pedicure at the Annie Wilkes Salon.
Speaking of hammertoe ...
That's because the human foot is a work in progress, at best. If Mother Nature were Michelangelo, putting shoes on your feet would be like walking in on a half-finished David and stuffing it into a pizza box. Your foot is basically a fucked-up, flattened hand comprised of way too many fragile, teensy bones, which are in turn the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolving to accommodate life in trees, followed by humans saying "fuck it" and deciding to walk upright on the ground instead. The numerous joints, ligaments, and muscle connections are stressed as it is with absorbing the shock from our steps and balancing our entire body weight, so the additional stress from even the most minimal of shoes can lead to surgery to fix something called metatarsalgia -- and trust us, no one wants to suffer from a condition with that many goddamn syllables.
Even our attempts to improve our shoes arguably make things worse. Padding intended to soften impacts can cause "knee abduction" over time, (agonizingly) adjusting the very way we're evolved to move. Certain footwear also shortens tendons and deforms muscles, physically altering our anatomy. So what's the cure? Well, since Flintstones fashion has yet to make a comeback, it looks like you're stuck with trying to convince your significant other to rub the pain out of your repulsive land-flippers for the foreseeable future.
"Sidekicks get bunions. Butlers get corns. Them's the breaks."
Hey, we never claimed this article was about offering feasible solutions. Evolution just isn't keeping up with our shit, that's all.
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For more reasons our ancestors did it better, check out 6 Ancient Sports Too Awesome For the Modern World and 30 'Modern' Things That Are Way Older Than You Think.