Remember pink slime? That was the stuff that made headlines a couple of years ago, much to the consternation of the fast food industry, which had long been adding the crimson goo as inexpensive excipient to beef up their burgers (and profits). Although the addition of fillers is not necessarily illegal or even unhealthy and has historically been a way to lower food costs to consumers, this particular additive created an unusually universal and vociferous revulsion. Within weeks of the ABC news story that revealed the practice to the public, fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell had officially renounced it and public schools around the country stopped serving it.
However, despite the horrific moniker, the strawberry colored filler with the gloppy consistency that was added to meat was actually not much different than the meat itself. It was chemically treated connective tissue (CT), the rubbery, flavorless chewy stuff most people know as gristle.
Despite its unsavory reputation, the stuff of slime, as well as gristle, is actually a pretty important substance, that is, when it’s a component of our bodies. Connective tissue makes up around 20 to 25 percent of our weight. It’s responsible, as the name implies, for connecting our various components, assuring that our organs and tissues are tightly bound to each other. It’s a type of biological cement that keeps us in one piece, as an intact and coherent whole.
Connective tissue is produced in a special cell called a fibroblast, the birthplace of the three major components of CT which is known as the “matrix”.
collagen (“colla” is the ancient Greek term for glue), a strong, structural protein that gram for gram is more powerful than steel
elastin – a flexible, elastic protein that allows connective tissues to resume their shape after stretching or contracting.
complex sugar molecules (polysaccharides) and sugar-protein complexes (proteo-glycans) which act as a shock absorber and also have a nourishing and detoxifying effect.
The combination of the fibroblasts and the matrix they extrude is what is generally referred to as connective tissue
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