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Comparing Diseases to Food Helps Diagnoses

Jul 10, 2014 08:01 PM EDT

The easiest way to describe a disease? Food of course. According to a respected pathologist, comparing diseases to the smell and appearance of certain foods can help professionals in diagnosing and remembering some particularly troubling ailments.

"It is a wonder that, in the midst of the smells and sights of human affliction, a physician has the stomach to think of food at all," Ritu Lakhtakia, a pathologist from Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman, recently wrote.

But according to Lakhtakia, many professionals simply stomach-up, using food comparisons to help promote a better understanding of symptoms among patients and students like.

According to a paper published in Medical Humanities, cream and cheese examples are some of the most common and remarkably accurate comparisons.

"For me, it changed forever the delights of the cheese counter at the delicatessen," Lakhtakia admits. "The cheesy consistency of caseation identifies a tubercular lesion, while the cystic changes in the endometrial glands in atrophy are akin to the varying sized holes in a block of Swiss cheese."

Likewise, cottage cheese looks remarkably similar to a yeast-like fungal infection called mucosal candidiasis.

If we haven't ruined your appetite yet, you're probably just no fan of cheese curds; but never fear, Dr Lakhtakia has more comparisons to serve up.

The shapes and contour of vegetables are apparently also common references in the medical field, where a doctor might identify the nature of a helophytic growths - tumors that protrudes into the cavities of hollow organs - by wondering "does it look like mushroom or cauliflower?"

Even good-old reliable nut meg doesn't escape this nauseating list.

"Today, I never fail to carry a nutmeg to demonstrate the dark and light contrast in my lectures on liver disease," the doctor writes.

Even full dishes can be found on this menu, with appearance of yeast and hyphae of Malassezia furfur commonly being said to look like spaghetti and meatballs.

Lakhtakia guesses that this curious practice likely first emerged with hungry medical students crunching for exams while their stomachs grumbled, or even when some busy researcher looked at samples as his dinner forgotten cooled beside him.

"Whatever the genesis, these time-honoured allusions have been, and will continue to be, a lively learning inducement for generations of budding physicians."

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