Quartzy co-founder Adam Regelmann is an MD-PhD. He bypassed a career in gastroenterology to launch Quartzy with Columbia colleague Jayant Kulkarni. Each week Adam answers five questions about science, medicine, and pop-culture.
Why does eating turkey make you sleepy?
They say it’s tryptophan—which is an amino acid—that makes you tired. I don’t know of any actual research on this. I think that it doesn’t. I think it’s just a big meal. People wait to eat that day until the big meal, and then they get a giant meal of sweet potatoes, stuffing, and turkey. And then their parasympathetic nervous system kicks in.
When you don’t eat, your sympathetic nervous system gets revved up in order to provide glucose to your organs. You’re amped. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight-or-flight response, but it also becomes active when you don’t eat. And then you finally eat this huge meal, and you switch from the sympathetic nervous system being active to the parasympathetic. And the parasympathetic is the digestive, calm, slow-your-heart rate nervous system.
How does your biochemistry background affect the way you watch Breaking Bad?
Biochemistry doesn’t. But the organic chemistry—which I only took one class of as a prereq for medical school—those are my favorite parts of Breaking Bad. There are three things I remember: an explosive form of mercury that looked like meth; the ricin, which can be made from castor beans; and hydrofluoric acid that they used to dissolve a body. All of it sounded pretty accurate. I loved the science aspects of Breaking Bad. I would go to Wikipedia after every single one to look to see how accurate they were—and they were always very accurate.
One big pet peeve that I had was the methylamine. Walter White kept calling it “meth–luh–mean.” It’s “methyl–amine.” I don’t know if he was using a British pronunciation or an Albuquerquean pronunciation.
What causes hangovers, and how can people avoid them?
There’s some evidence that things called congeners are the culprits. Congeners are found in aged alcohols: red wines, whiskeys. So that is why they say that vodka—which is just distilled alcohol—causes less of a hangover. Also, dehydration, which can cause headaches even if you’re not drinking. The amount of alcohol you consume increases your level of dehydration by inhibiting the secretion of antidiuretic hormone.
There’s a drug called disulfiram—the brand name is Antabuse. It used to be used as a therapy for alcoholism and it makes your hangovers 10 times worse. It does this by inhibiting an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts ethanol to acetaldehyde. Some antibiotics have a side effect of suppressing that enzyme, which is why if you’re on it, they tell you not to drink. Bottom line: If you’re gonna drink, drink vodka. Don’t drink too much of it. And drink water after each drink. Might be classic “Do as I say, not as I do” advice, though!
What are your thoughts on medical TV shows?
The most accurate depiction of what it’s like to work in a hospital is Scrubs, for a couple reasons. There’s a twisted sense of humor that is pervasive in hospitals, but people do really care a lot. And specialties matter. In Scrubs, surgeons do the things that surgeons do, and internists do the things that internists do.
On Grey’s Anatomy, a neurosurgeon is scrubbing in on a kidney case. It just never would happen. ER was also horrible about things like cracking chests in the middle of the ER to do a bypass. That’s malpractice. And as for the sex-in-the-call-room cliché, I was married during my residency, so I never experienced such drama, and I didn’t really hear about it happening, either. People get pretty gamy when they’re on call for 30 hours.
Which Quartzy features do you wish existed during your immunology and molecular genetics lab work?
Knowing where stuff is. Quote-to-purchasing simplicity. We had a credit card, and I would need to get a quote every time I wanted something, and that could take a few days. Or I could buy it at list price, but that was crazy. It would have been nice to do it all at once.
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