The science of belly button fluff

ResearchBlogging.orgScience excels at explaining the unknown, but try as we might there are some things that are remain just beyond our grasp. Why are we here? Where are we going? Why do some people have more belly button fluff than others?

Georg Steinhauser is a man who isn’t afraid of a challenge and has come up with a hypothesis regarding why some belly buttons collect more fluff than others, shining light onto one of the greatest mysteries of our time.

The author’s hypothesis is that men’s abdominal hair collect cotton fibers from shirts and transport them into the navel by the normal body movement, supported by the direction of the abdominal hairs and their structure. After several hours, these fibers are compacted to form the typical felt-like material.

The support for this position comes from an experiment in which he collected lint from his navel for 3 long hard years, meticulously recording the weight and what he was wearing that day. Almost an entire gram of material was gathered!

The results showed that newer t-shirts resulted in more navel fluff than older ones, which – whilst interesting – doesn’t really argue for or against the hypothesis.

So he also underwent a personal sacrifice in the name of science and shaved his belly, as well as checked the accumulation of lint in his friend’s navels. No doubt they were proud to be a part of such a noble endeavour.

The combined results of these observations showed that more hair seems to mean more lint, a principle underlined by the fact lint is observed forming in the hair. It may well then gradually move the naval. But why?

Well when the lint was analysed it was found to contain more than just t-shirt material, having absorbed some fat, sweat, dirt etc. which might suggest that it serves some cleaning function. Belly button hair, and the fluff it produces, may well be very important to keeping our stomach holes clean.

Of course, this is only a hypothesis rendered plausible by anecdotal data so further research is needed to determine if this is a valid explanation for the unexplainable.

I, along with the rest of the scientific community, await further results with baited breath. For on that day we shall peer into the very face of god and discover whether stomach hair is really the cause of belly button fluff.

Some of you at this point might be laughing, but the importance of this research cannot be stressed enough. So I will leave you with the final words of the great Georg Steinhauser himself.

Lastly, and most importantly, we hope we have been able to provide some helpful information for GPs when they are next confronted with the simple question of ‘‘why some belly buttons collect so much lint and others do not.”;)

Steinhauser, G. (2009). The nature of navel fluff Medical Hypotheses, 72 (6), 623-625 DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.01.015

9 thoughts on “The science of belly button fluff

  1. Next question: Is this a new phenomenon associated with shirt-wearing, or do semi-naked hunter gatherers also collect BBF? Have any tiny lumps of unidentified fibrous materials been detected in paleolithic gravesites? Quite apart from the preservation issue, I imagine they might be easy to overlook.

    • Given the material was apparently the same as the t-shirt material, I would imagine it would share many of the same traits as it – decay at the same rate, only be present when they were worn etc.

      As such, I imagine they won’t be present where clothes are, either in the grave or on hunter-gatherers.

  2. Pingback: The science of belly button fluff | Latest News

    • I think the hair does cause fluff, although i suspect the cleaning factor might be coincidental. Although it may have coincidentally arisen and been co-opeted by evolution, although i don’t believe that to be the case.

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  4. [pssssst… pet peeve of mine… bated breath, not baited breath… unless you’ve been chowing down on minnows.]

    [[Also, the comment above mine is spam. Just sayin’.]]

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