What lengths would you go to lose weight?
Beginning in March 2016, twenty-one obese men and women will demonstrate how far they are willing to go. The volunteers will be randomly assigned (2:1) to begin taking either a placebo pill or a pill containing freeze-dried poop that was collected from healthy, lean donors who were vigorously screened and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. For 12 weeks, researchers will track the weight, body composition, and insulin sensitivity of each participant, and stool samples will be collected so intestinal microbiome (microorganism population) can be analyzed.
The study participants won’t be able to tell they may be ingesting poop. According to Elaine W. Yu, an assistant professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and the leader of the study, the 1-cm pills have no odor, no taste, and are double-encapsulated.
This is the first time poop pills have been studied in this manner. One reason it is even being attempted rests on the promising results of previous experiments. In one study, germ-free mice were given gut bacteria from human donor twins, one of whom was lean and the other obese. Mice who received gut bacteria from lean twins stayed lean while microorganisms from obese donors caused the mice to gain weight, even though all the mice ate the same diet.
The researchers decided to take the experiment further. They placed mice given the lean bacteria in the same cage with mice given the “obese” bacteria, but before the latter had begun to gain weight. Since mice eat each other’s feces, the authors knew the mice would exchange microorganisms.
Soon, the bacteria in the obese-type mice transformed to match those of their lean peers and they remained lean. Thus the scientists discovered that the bacteria from the lean mice thrived in the obese-type mice, but it did not work the other way around; that is, bacteria from the obese-type mice did not colonize and transform the microorganisms in the lean mice to cause them to gain weight.
Another earlier study involved 18 obese patients in the Netherlands who had metabolic syndrome, a condition that usually leads to type 2 diabetes. The participants received a fecal transplant (the poop was introduced to their intestinal tract via endoscope) from healthy, lean donors or their own feces.
After six weeks, those who received the fecal transplant from the lean donors had a significant improvement in insulin resistance and a marked decline in triglyceride levels while those who received their own poop did not experience these benefits.
The new study will take what scientists have learned thus far and carry it further. Could eating poop be the next treatment for obesity? According to Yu, positive results from this study could “eventually lead to more targeted therapies for obesity and other metabolic disorders such as diabetes.”
Sources Medscape. EASD: Fecal transplant flushes insulin resistance