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Are You Cold Blooded?

Imagine being in bed with a fever of 102 degrees F.  Ensuing delirium, feeling awful, you might drink orange juice and sleep.  Temperatures > 104 degrees can be fatal.  Our body temperature, like our somatic 7.2 pH, is strictly maintained under homeostatic control, thus relatively invariable.  Historically, 98.6 degrees F = 37 degrees C is normal.  That is, until now.  [References: plethora of scientific articles on lower human body temperature, e.g., Scientific American, etc.]

Modern medical check-ups necessarily start with recording our vital signs, notably our temperature, which is recognized as a robust indicator of health.  Historically 98.6 degrees F = 37 degrees C was regarded as normal. 

  • Incidentally, chronically very slightly elevated body temperature, on the order of < 1 degree, may be indicative of cancer, for notable example.  Subtle yet real diagnostic. 
  • Women naturally have slightly higher temperatures than men (and higher during ovulation). 

But human temperature biometric diagnostic data is now outdated!  Research findings have rigorously shown that human body temperatures have dropped to 97.5 degrees F in the western world within the past two centuries.  Why?

Greater than a couple centuries ago (or so), humans might live till their 50s or 60s on average, succumbing to abscessed tooth infections, bone fractures or lacerations, strep throat, influenza or diarrhea (incidentally, diarrhea is a top killer of children in 3rd world countries still).  Body temperatures then were comparatively higher, potentiating our immune system to combat such ailments.  Modern medicine effectively treats such common ailments.  Comparatively, us modern humans live in temperature controlled environments (comfortably heated to 72 degrees F), commonly wash with soap/water and eat fresh/clean packaged foods from the grocery store. 

  • Here in Alaska, we see bears eat rotting salmon on river banks, which would surely sicken us wimpy humans.  Similarly, dogs (and other animals too) have a stronger constitution than us humans.  My borzoi once ate a dead tropical aquarium fish (yikes!) with great satisfaction.  Why?  Because bears and dogs, et al. have highly acidic saliva, effectively killing pathogens before metabolized. 
  • Historically, spices, pickling and fermentation served as powerful techniques used to help safely preserve foods with anti-microbial effects.  Wine and beer/ales offer some protection against metabolizing spoilt foods too. 

Resultantly, our body temperatures have fallen.  Should our modern world fail, perhaps due to inhospitable climate change, antibiotics rendered ineffectual to impervious super-bacteria, or a pandemic virus, etc., will we humans have the biological wherewithal to be able to survive? 


Dr Amy Du Beau
Anchorage, Alaska


Du Beau A., Matanuska Forensic Science, LLC.