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To specify, I mean plain corn-on-the-cob, not anything processed like corn flakes.

Since one of the main important functions of corn is that it's not digestible, and therefore helps with digestion by loosening feces, would that make it just as beneficial as chopping up and eating a plastic bag?

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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is not biologically relevant. $\endgroup$ – Michael S Taylor Sep 2 '14 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ corn cobs are not really digestable, but that still doesn't make plastic good for you $\endgroup$ – shigeta Sep 2 '14 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @shigeta We digest corn cobs when we eat baby corn. Pigs can easily eat and digest corn cobs. Corn cobs are part of corn silage, which after fermentation is consumed and digested by cows and other farm animals. But still, none of this makes plastic any more nutritious or good for you. :) $\endgroup$ – Michael S Taylor Sep 2 '14 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think I was the first vote to close this question but after considering comments by @shigeta I've voted to reopen and will submit an answer soon. $\endgroup$ – Michael S Taylor Sep 3 '14 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @shigeta Thanks for your comments. They gave me something to think about. $\endgroup$ – Michael S Taylor Sep 3 '14 at 21:53
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The part of the corn kernel that is visible in human feces is the outer coat of bran called the pericarp (see this image). This is a common structure in cereal grains like corn and wheat. However, the bulk of the corn kernal is starchy endosperm, which is readily digestible by humans and provides carbohydrates and vitamins A and C. The non-digestible (by humans) pericarp does help to keep fecal material soft.

Plastic bags do not provide those same benefits. Studies on human consumption of plastic bags are lacking, for obvious reasons. However, marine organisms like sea turtles unfortunately consume large amounts of plastic debris (Derraik 2002). Bugoni et al. (2001) found that plastic debris caused mortality for 13% of the green turtles in their study. A review of 408 leatherback sea turtle autopsy records by Mrosovsky et al. (2009) found plastic inside 34% of turtles. The mortality in the sea turtles may be due to the accumulation of plastics in the gut which can block movement of food, alter feeding behaviors, and prevent absorbtion of nutrients.

If humans were to consume chopped up plastic bags, the evidence suggests that instead of receiving the same benefits as we do from whole kernal corn we are much more likely to be harmed. Eat your corn, recycle your plastic.

Literature Cited

Bugoni, L. et al., 2001. Marine debris and human impacts on sea turtles in southern Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42: 1330-1334.

Derraik, J.G.B. 2002. The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44: 842-852.

Mrosovsky, N. et al. 2009. Leatherback turtles: The menance of plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 287-289.

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