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Hey matt:

I just love peanuts. I know they are good for you -- great protein, good type of fat -- just a great snack. My question is, can I eat the shell too? My wife told me I am going to have some internal catastrophe if I don't peel the nuts before I eat them. I say, if it's good enough for the elephants, it's good enough for me.

-- Going Nuts, College Heights

Hey, Matt!

What is human spit made of? Water and enzymes?

-- Shannon in Santee

Even after all these years, the staff here at Amalgamated Alice LLC is amazed at the crazy antics and just plain damnfool nonsense that makes up your everyday lives. In the case of Mr. Nuts, I think we can label shell eating a crazy antic. Mrs. Nuts's predictions of gastric disaster are probably overstated, but we can sympathize with her point of view. The shell of a peanut is primarily cellulose. To put that in perspective, so are hay, leaves, twigs, lumber, cardboard, tree bark, sponges, the little see-through windows in recyclable envelopes... Cellulose is a great source of food energy, but that energy is very hard to release. Unlike elephants, cows, goats, termites, silverfish, rodents, and other plant eaters, we don't have enough stomachs or the proper digestive microbes to handle it. So, Mr. Nuts, no matter how thoroughly you chew those tasty shells, they won't be much changed by the time they've sailed down your alimentary canal and out the other end. I'm sure you've noticed you're amazingly regular lately. Peanut shells would be fiber with a capital F.

I hope the shells are not making cuts in the soft tissue in your mouth, creating lots of stomach or intestinal gas, or irritating those pesky hemorrhoids. Your biggest risk may come from dirt, mold, and other junk that might cling to the shell. Naturally, my regiment of attorneys reminds you that I am not a doctor, can't give you medical advice, and am pretty much just a free-lance bozo who happens to have access to newspaper space. But for some lame reason, I'm the one you asked.

So what's spit got to do with it? Spit is where it all begins. Spit kick-starts the conversion of tortillas and cheez puffs to absorbable sugar. Human spit contains: (Proteins & Enzymes) Albumin, AY-glucuronidase, cystatins, esterases, gustin, immunoglobin A & M & G, lactoferrin, lactic dehydrogenase, mucins, parotid aggregins, phosphatases, ribonucleases, serum proteins, vitamin-binding proteins, amylase, fibronectin, histatins, kallikrein, lipase, lysozyme, peptidases, proline, peroxidases, tyrosine; (Organic Molecules) creatinine, lipids, sialic acid, uric acid, glucose, nitrogen, urea; (Electrolytes) ammonia, calcium, fluoride, magnesium, potassium, sulphates, bicarbonate, chloride, iodide, phosphates, sodium, thiocyanate. None of which will have much effect on peanut shells.

More Than We Ever Wanted to Know, from Dr. Bob

Additional health tips from your friends at the Matthew Alice Institution for Cheap Research:

I am a physician and have eaten whole roasted peanuts (unsalted) for years. Three to four handfuls per day as part of a high-fiber diet. No problems, no undue flatulence, two to three soft BMs a day (which I consider normal, compared to individuals eating a highly refined diet). Unlike sunflower shells, which do not significantly soften and have sharp ends, peanut shells soften considerably and do not have sharp projections. While remnants may be found in the stool, they are very pliable. Thorough chewing is recommended and no trauma to the inner mouth or gastrointestinal tract ensues. I have searched the internet for several years for references to "eating peanut shells," and your reply is the first reference I have run across.

That's what we're here for, Dr. Bob.

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