Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/70

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FROM the days of Hippocrates, intelligent medical observers have noticed that an unusual accumulation of fat, far from adding to the strength of a person, was a source of physical weakness, and, to a certain extent, an outward sign of incapacity; that it limited activity and shortened life. It is only in comparatively modern times that scientific experimentalists have ascertained precisely how the system generally, and the heart particularly, is affected either by the overloading or infiltration of superfluous fatty matter upon or in its muscular substance. In fact, it was not until the microscope was carefully applied to the investigation that the disease now known as "fatty degeneration" was really understood.

Every one knows that a certain amount of adipose matter in the human system impedes rapidity of motion. No sportsman would back a pedestrian who turned the scale at three hundred pounds, for instance; but there are other kinds of impedimenta to the human faculties which are certainly to be traced to superfluous fat, though this is rarely suspected of being the cause. A common case is that of the obese gourmand who complains that nothing tastes as it used to; on whose palate, formerly so sensitive, everything palls, and fails to awaken the delicious sensations of former days. He is very apt to attribute the change to the incompetent chef de cuisine, or even to degenerate Nature herself, in not growing the same quality in bird or fish; while the looker-on is apt to imagine that the change results from mere satiety. But suppose we had our fat friend on the dissecting-table, what should we probably find? No doubt, insidious deposits of fatty matter which have impeded the lively sensations of the organs of taste and smell, the latter of which so greatly aids the imagination and assists in the pleasure of the table. In the "Medico-Chirurgical Transactions," of 1870, Dr. W. Ogle gives five distinct cases of anosmia arising from an excess of fatty deposit permeating the cells of the olfactory apparatus.

Still more curious, and as generally unsuspected, is the deposit of adipose tissue as a cause of deafness; and this not directly in the organs of hearing, but in the canals leading to the air-passages of the nose and throat. This naturally requires some explanation to non-professionals, though the fact is well established. It results from the sympathetic connection which is formed by the continuous mucous membrane, which covers at once the interior of the mouth and throat, the pendulous palate, the tonsils, the isthmus of the fauces, and the