MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: Can I determine makeup of my 'flushed' gallstones in my kitchen?

Date: Thu Jul 31 07:13:06 2008
Posted By: Rafael Garcia, Faculty, Fats, oils and Animal Co-Products, USDA-ARS
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 1213039417.Bc

Both cholesterol and fats (including saponified fatty acids) have "low polarity". You can get an intuitive sense for how polar a molecule is by looking at its structure. For organic molecules, if the structure is mostly connections between carbons and between carbon and hydrogen, the molecule will have relatively low polarity. The more C-O-H connections you see, the more polar the molecule will be. So, look up the structure of both the substances you are interested in (for saponified olive oil just look at the structure of a "fatty acid", that's close enough for this purpose); you'll see that they don't look very polar.

Your rubbing alcohol is probably ethanol or isopropanol. These both have a C-O-H part, but the rest is C-C and C-H bonds; they aren't too polar. Low polarity solvents tend to be good at dissolving low polarity solutes. So, you would expect both fatty acids and cholesterol to dissolve in alcohol. Solubility in alcohol won't differentiate between the two without some tricks you couldn't do in your kitchen.

After you do the dissolution, is there any solid insoluble material left over? These could be mineral salts. You could try dissolving these in vinegar. Mineral salts that are insoluble in water at neutral pH tend to be more soluble in acid solutions, such as vinegar.

Good luck and remember that science is about being skeptical. I would at least read the criticism on any alternative medical treatment before trying it on myself.

*Note: The author is answer on his own behalf, and the above statement should not be considered a statement on behalf of his employer.

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