The Mystery of The Exploding Appendix
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Rates of appendicitis vary around the world, likely due to the forces of modernization.
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**Appendix** – There are many other unforeseen health changes that seem to be related to the forces of modernization, like the increase in rates of diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and ADHD. Those changes likely stem from all sorts of complicated genetic and environmental interactions – including changes in diet, exposure to pollution, and access to hygiene – that researchers haven’t yet figured out.
To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Fecalith: A stony mass of feces inside a person’s intestinal tract.
Appendix: A tube-shaped sac at the bottom of a person’s intestinal tract.
Appendicitis: A painful inflammation of the appendix.
Fiber: Plant-derived dietary material that’s resistant to certain digestive enzymes.
Tertiary Food Processing: Commercial production of food that often contains synthetic elements or an overabundance of certain salts and sugars.
“Western Diet”: A collective term for a diet high in fat, cholesterol, protein, sugar, and salt, that often involves frequent consumption of “fast food”.
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Writer, Editor, Director & Narrator: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
Video Illustrator: Qingyang Chen (@QCVisual) with Adam Thompson
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich
Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:
Addiss, D., Shaffer, N., Fowler, B., Tauxe, R. (1990). The epidemiology of appendicitis and appendectomy in the United States. The American Journal of Epidemiology.132:5 (910-1925). Retrieved from:
Fares, A. (2014). Summer Appendicitis. Annals of Medical and Health Science Research. 4(1): 18-21. Retrieved from:
Ferris, M., Quan, S., Kaplan, B., Molodecky, N., Ball, C., Chernoff, G., Bhala, N., Ghosh, S., Dixon, E., Ng, S., Kaplan, G. (2017). The Global Incidence of Appendicitis: A Systematic Review of Population-based Studies. Annals of Surgery. 266:2 (237-241). Retrieved from:
Kaplan, G. (2018). Personal communication. Assistant professor, The Gastrointestinal REsearch Group, University of Calgary.
Ramdass, M., Young Sing, Q., Milne, D., Mooteeram, J., and Barrow, S. (2015). Association between the appendix and the fecalith in adults. Canadian Journal of Surgery. 58 (10-14). Retrieved from: