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Three Rivers Press
updated 8/12/2005 11:10:04 AM ET 2005-08-12T15:10:04

Have you ever wanted to ask your doctor about some of the oddities of your body, but didn’t have the guts or the time to do so? Well, now’s your chance to get some factual and funny answers to those questions you’ve pondered. From Pop Rocks to belly buttons, nipples to knuckles, Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg have all the answers in a new book, "Why Do Men Have Nipples?” The two authors were invited to discuss the book on “Today.” Here’s an excerpt:

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
It's 10 p.m., and my partner in writing and crime, Mark Leyner, and I are late as usual, but the party is in full swing. We brought a bottle of Don Julio tequila, which Leyner sampled voraciously in the cab, insisting that it needed to be screened for industrial toxins. We enter the elegantly appointed Park Avenue home of Eloise Cameron, a philanthropist, patron of the arts, and Botox junkie. Hors d'oeuvres are being served and the slightly inebriated and flush-faced Leyner grabs a mouthful of Swedish meatballs, proceeds to kiss our hostess, and then comments, "Eloise, baby, better lay off the collagen. Kissing those lips is like making out with the Michelin man." She attempts to smirk with disdain, but the Botox leaves her face impassive.

I corral Leyner and we proceed into the living room. No sooner have we entered when I'm embraced from behind. I turn around and it's Jeremy Burns, an investment banker who sits two rows behind me at the Knicks games. Jeremy is well known to the Madison Square Garden food vendors for his insatiable appetite for hot dogs, cotton candy, and beer. He is now almost unrecognizable in his new Atkins-induced skeletonlike state. "Who exhumed you?" Leyner belches. I am overcome by embarrassment but secretly wetting myself with laughter. Jeremy tries to sidestep Leyner and as their arms brush, Leyner is covered with the grease that now oozes from Jeremy's pores. Leyner whispers to me, "This dude is all greased up like a rectal thermometer." I push Leyner away and he uses this opportunity to sneak over to the bar for another blast of Don Julio. I am left with Jeremy and his insufferable stories about life on the meat and fat diet, and a million medical questions about food.

If we are what we eat, why do we know so little about food and nutrition?

DOES IT REALLY TAKE SEVEN YEARS TO DIGEST CHEWING GUM?
What is it with seven years? You break a mirror, seven years of bad luck. Each dog year is seven human years. Seven years to digest swallowed gum? What if a dog broke a mirror then swallowed a pack of gum? Sounds like an algebra problem.

Chewing gum is not digestible, but it definitely doesn't sit in your stomach for years. Gum actually might help things move through the bowels faster. Sorbitol is sometimes used as a sweetener in gum and this can act as a laxative. What does this mean? Yes, if you look carefully, you should see it floating next to all of those lovely yellow corn kernels.

WHY DOES YOUR PEE SMELL WHEN YOU EAT ASPARAGUS?
Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks. The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system. Not all people have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some of you can eat all the asparagus you want without stinking up the place. One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people tested did. Insert your favorite French joke here________________________________.

WHAT CAUSES AN ICE CREAM HEADACHE?
Aaaah, the joy of a Popsicle on a hot summer day. One theory places the source for the brain freeze in the sinuses, where the pain may be caused by the rapid cooling of air in the frontal sinuses. This triggers local pain receptors.

Another theory postulates that the constriction of blood vessels in the roof and rear of the mouth causes pain receptors to overload and refer the pain to your head. There is a nerve center there, in the back of your mouth, called the sphenopalatine ganglion, and this is the most likely source of the dreaded ice cream headache.

A friend of ours suggested a quick cure of rapidly rubbing your tongue on the roof of your mouth to warm it up. Her demonstration included a bizarre clucking sound. Leyner tried this and found himself followed by a large goose of whom he seems to have become inordinately fond.

Excerpted from, "Why Do Men Have Nipples?" by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.  Copyright © 2005 by Mark Leyner. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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