Hoax Story – Does having a bushy chest stop cirrhosis of the liver?

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The opposite day, I used to be studying The E-book of Unusual Details & Ineffective Info (1979) by Scot Morris, once I got here throughout the next assertion: “Males with hair on their chests are much less more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver than bare-chested males are.”

That is positively a wierd truth, and subsequently acceptable for Morris’s guide. However might this presumably be true? Why would chest hair have something to do with a cirrhotic liver?

Morris did not present any references, and the veracity of a lot of his “unusual info” appears questionable. So I wasn’t keen to simply take his phrase for it. Additionally, it sounded prefer it is perhaps some type of medical city legend. However I used to be curious. So I made a decision to seek out out what the reality was.

The Supply of the Unusual Reality

Monitoring down the supply of this unusual truth wasn’t notably tough. All through the Nineteen Sixties and early ’70s a handful of newspaper articles drew consideration to the curious hyperlink between chest hair and cirrhosis.

The first supply of knowledge for these articles was one Dr. Mitchell Spellberg, a liver specialist on the College of Illinois and creator of Diseases of the Liver (1954). In Might 1961 Spellberg held a press convention, at the side of the 62nd annual assembly of the American Gastroenterological affiliation in Chicago, in an effort to put out a warning that males with out hair on their chests must be cautious in regards to the quantity of alcohol they eat as a result of they’re at better threat to develop cirrhosis of the liver when in comparison with males with bushy chests.


Kansas Metropolis Instances – Might 27, 1961

Mentioned Spellberg, “I at all times inform my medical college students that once they go into follow and ever have a affected person with out hair on his chest, for heaven’s sake, do not let him drink.”

He famous that simply because a person had hair on his chest did not imply he might drink extreme quantities of alcohol. Nevertheless, he then declared that, “the fuzzy chested particular person might be endowed with extra safety towards alcohol than his naked chested brother.”

Spellberg’s warning was picked up by the Related Press and ran in lots of newspapers.

Spellberg wasn’t the one physician to notice the chest-hair/cirrhosis hyperlink. The connection was additionally referred to in Bedside Medicine (1960), the memoir of Dr. Isidore Snapper:

When many a long time in the past we warned the ‘Diener’ of the Division of Pathology in Vienna in regards to the risks of his alcoholic libations — in spite of everything, he even drank the alcohol during which the specimens had been mounted — he opened his shirt, beat his bushy chest and guaranteed us in Viennese vernacular that bushy people by no means develop cirrhosis.

Nevertheless, Snapper then added a be aware of skepticism: “Such an absolute pronouncement ought to in all probability be taken with a number of grains of salt; however, it shouldn’t be disregarded utterly.”

Trigger or Impact?

So by the Nineteen Sixties, some medical doctors evidently believed there was a connection between the quantity of chest hair a person had and his probability of growing a cirrhotic liver. However I questioned whether or not they had been complicated an impact of cirrhosis with a threat issue — i.e. maybe cirrhosis causes males to lose their chest hair, and this had led medical doctors to imagine {that a} hairless chest made males extra more likely to develop cirrhosis?

Maybe. Nevertheless, a medical supply from the mid-Nineteen Seventies, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery (1976) by the Yale surgeon Dr. Richard Selzer, made clear that medical doctors regarded a hairless chest as a premorbid threat issue for cirrhosis — that’s, a threat issue that preceded any onset of illness, not one brought on by the illness:

One other measure of susceptibility [for cirrhosis] is, brace yourselves, the absence of hair on the chest. In males, after all. Unpelted males of the type idealized by bathing-suit and underwear producers are sitting geese for the onset of cirrhosis. All different issues being equal, ladies, the marrying variety, would do nicely to show other than such huge expanses of bare chest pores and skin and to domesticate a style for the simian. It was previously thought that cirrhotic males misplaced their chest hair. Not so. They by no means had any to start with.

Selzer additional famous that cirrhosis shouldn’t be, by any means, an simply understood situation. Many individuals drink in extra, however just a few of those develop cirrhotic livers. Elements apart from alcohol appear to be concerned. For example, only a few Jewish individuals develop cirrhotic livers. Selzer writes, “It has been reported by a couple of visiting professor of medication that noticeable segments of the inhabitants of Israel get and keep drunk for fairly heroic durations of time. Additionally it is reported that their livers stay enviably wholesome.”

The Medical Proof

The place had been these medical doctors getting their info from? Was their perception based mostly on anecdotal stories? Or had researchers truly examined the chest-hair/cirrhosis hyperlink?

It took a bit of extra digging, however I found that, sure, there have been a number of research of the chest-hair/cirrhosis hyperlink. These research had been all carried out subsequent to Spellberg’s 1961 press convention (so he will need to have come to his conclusion based mostly on anecdotal proof). Moreover, they did not all arrive on the similar conclusion.

The earliest examine that I discovered, carried out by a bunch of medical doctors from St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York Metropolis, was printed in 1962 within the American Journal of Digestive Illnesses.

The medical doctors described the aim of their examine as being to look at the “well-established medical axiom… that hairy-chested males shouldn’t have extreme cirrhosis of the liver.”

To do that, they in contrast quantities of chest hair in three teams of males: 55 hospital sufferers with cirrhosis of the liver, 402 white male noncirrhotic hospital sufferers, and 71 “random wholesome white males.”


Comparability of hirsuteness in three teams

The final group of random, white males all occurred to be medical doctors “noticed at poolside at a latest scientific assembly.” Evidently the authors of the examine had discovered an ingenious solution to mix convention fraternization with medical examine.

They decided that there was no important statistical distinction in chest-hair development between the three teams. This led them to conclude, bluntly, that, “Hairyness of the chest is of no help in bedside prognosis of cirrhosis of the liver.”

A lot, it appeared, for the chest-hair/cirrhosis hyperlink. Nevertheless, this wasn’t the final phrase on the difficulty. In 1979, newspapers reported on an Austrian medical examine that discovered “that males with bushy chests are much less more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver.” I have never been capable of finding the examine itself, solely the information stories about it.

And extra lately, a examine printed in 1998 within the journal Digestive Illnesses and Sciences presents what appears to be probably the most rigorous examination of the difficulty — and flatly contradicted the 1962 examine (although they did not cite the sooner examine and presumably weren’t conscious of it).

Docs in New Delhi, India studied a bunch of 44 continual alcoholics, separated into two teams — scanty chest-hair development (21 males) and profuse chest-hair development (23 males).

They discovered that regardless that the scanty hair development group truly consumed, on common, barely much less alcohol, assessments confirmed that their livers suffered extra extreme harm. The researchers subsequently concluded that there was “a extremely important affiliation between the extent of hair development over the trunk and the event of alcohol-related liver illness.”

They additional steered that chest hair (or the dearth of it) supplies “an simply recognizable medical signal figuring out people at elevated threat of growing alcohol-related liver harm.”

And why would chest hair be associated to cirrhosis of the liver? The authors steered that the sex-hormone testosterone is the explanation, as a result of it influences each the flexibility of the liver to metabolize alcohol and the expansion of chest hair.

The chance arises that sufferers with low androgen expression on the receptor stage not solely have decreased truncal hair development but additionally have decrease hepatic MEOS content material, which ends up in delayed ethanol elimination. On this context it must be famous that ladies, who’ve decrease androgen receptor expression, develop alcohol-related liver illness extra readily than males.


It is taken some time to get right here, however the reply to the preliminary query (Does having a bushy chest stop cirrhosis of the liver?) would, surprisingly sufficient, seem like a tentative sure, based mostly on the newest scientific knowledge.

In fact, it is not the chest hair itself that stops cirrhosis, however relatively a better stage of testosterone.

It additionally must be emphasised that this doesn’t suggest that males with bushy chests can be at liberty to drink as a lot as they need. Extra alcohol consumption may cause loads of different dangerous results.

Plus, a disclaimer: I’ve no explicit medical experience. So do not deal with any of the above as medical gospel.

Nevertheless, I ought to give Morris credit score. His unusual truth turned out to be true. Or, not less than, present medical proof means that it is true.

  1. Gibbons, R (Might 27, 1961). “Naked-Chested Males Suggested: Do not Drink.” Chicago Day by day Tribune: 8.
  2. Grace, WJ, et al. (1962). Chest Hair and Cirrhosis of the Liver. American Journal of Digestive Illnesses, 7(10): 913-914.
  3. Kumar, N & Anand, BS (Might 1998). Premorbid Hair Growth over the Trunk and Severity of Alcohol-Related Liver Disease. Digestive Illnesses and Sciences, 43(5): 1111-1115.
  4. Selzer, R (1976). Mortal Classes: Notes on the Artwork of Surgical procedure. Harcourt.

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