Top 10 Bizarre Facts About Death

9. Sealed Tight

On some people, a waxy substance called “adipocere” may be formed during the decay process that covers the entire body. This substance can be either white, gray, or yellow, and has a varying consistency. Once formed, it helps preserve the body and can keep it fresh (well, as fresh as a dead body can be) for several years.

As a body begins to decompose, fat cells release enzymes and break triglycerides into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in a process called hydrolysis. In the right conditions, hydrolysis will continue until all molecules are turned into fatty acids, and the unsaturated fatty acids will then react with hydrogen to form the compounds that make adipocere. Adipocere slows the decomposition process by resisting bacterial action that would otherwise begin to attack the body.

Adipocere can be frustrating for authorities in graveyards because it prevents the process of recycling grave plots. Scientists and archeologists, however, find it extremely useful because it gives them the ability to autopsy bodies that have been buried for a long time. The ability of adipocere to preserve a body has been helpful to scientists examining bodies even a century old.

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