People are fascinated with world records, especially when it comes to the human body. Many of us can remember leafing through the Guinness Book just to discover any number of human biological superlatives, whether it was height, age, weight or record number of successive sneezes. *Incidentally, that honour goes to Donna Griffin, who at the age of 12, sneezed around 1 million times during the course of one year.
Similarly, for whatever reason, be it hearsay or erroneous scientific conclusions, there are several myths about that human body that are accepted as fact. After providing a few fascinating world records, we will dispel a just a few of those myths.
Human Biological Records
1. The tallest recorded human ever to live was was 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall
Unusual growth like this is called ‘gigantism’ and arises when the pituitary gland over-produces growth hormone.
2. The shortest recorded human ever to live is just 54.6cm (21 1⁄2 in) tall
At the time of writing, Chandra Bahadur Dangi was still living. Humans shorter than 147 cm (4 ft 10 in) are said to be suffering from dwarfism.
3. Of the top 100 oldest people, the majority are women
In developed countries, women can expect to live 5 – 10 years longer on average than men. There is no single reason for this. Factors such as higher oestrogen levels and genetics have been suggested as being important.
4. The oldest verified human was Jeanne Calment of France
She died in August 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. There are claims of greater age but none have been properly proven.
5. The heaviest recorded person was Jon Brower Minnoch
Jon suffered from the medical condition of general oedema. This caused his body to retain fluids and was incurable. His maximum weight was 635 kg (100 stones).
Myths About the Human Body
6. It is a myth that a sneeze travels at 100mph
In a scientifically controlled small scale study, a group of researchers at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the USA found that the maximum velocity was just 4.5m/s (about 10mph).
7. Your ears and nose do not continue to grow throughout your life
The cartilage that makes up your nose and ears contains collagen and elastin fibres. These give cartilage its strength and shape. As you age, these fibres break down, causing the cartilage to sag.
8. Blood is not blue
Blood is either bright red or dark red, your veins often appear blue because of the properties of light. Only the wavelengths that we see as blue can reflect back through the skin from the veins.
9. It is a myth that we only use 10 percent of our brain capacity
If this were true, it should be possible to damage large parts of the brain without any problem. And why would the brain, a complex organ, evolve to be so inefficient?