Spontaneous Human Combustion

Going Up In Flames – A History Of Spontaneous Human Combustion

The most recent theory is the work of Professor Brian J Ford, a research biologist from Cambridge University. Prof Ford – who in an interview gave a figure of 150 deaths in 2,000 years – focussed on acetone, a highly flammable substance that is produced naturally by the human body, and was able to burn acetone-marinated pork fat easily.

Some illnesses, including alcoholism and some types of diabetes increase the levels of acetone in the body, as do some types of dieting (including the Atkins Diet). Pregnant women also produce more acetone. And a condition called ketosis can lead to acetone on the breath.

Prof Ford’s work offers hope for a rational explanation for this frightening phenomenon, which is incredibly rare – he suggests that people with ketosis should give up smoking, just in case – but the search for a definitive explanation goes on. Undoubtedly any new cases will raise the question again and send a collective shiver down our spines.

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