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Why are people, err, dying their poo blue?

·3-min read
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett

If you're currently eating right now, maybe pop your knife and fork down for a second... as it's about to get a little pooey up in here. Why? Because the latest social media craze to hit town is blue poo. Yes, you read that correctly. Or more specifically, the 'Blue Poop Challenge'.

What is the Blue Poop Challenge? Well, it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like – people are going out of their way in an attempt to turn their excrement blue. However, this new challenge isn't just for fun (Do people find it fun?), but first began life as part of a study into testing how well the digestive system and gut microbiome are working.

Researchers teamed up with ZOE, an at-home health testing programme, to test a novel way of measuring gut transit time (the time it takes for food to travel through your gut). They say that knowing this number - which will vary from person to person - can be a helpful health indicator.

Giving all the participants blue muffins, the team then asked them to record how long it took for them to notice that their usual toilet activities had turned a different colour. The length of time was then jotted down as their transit time (in theory, you could also try this experiment by eating beetroot too, which can also have poop colour-changing properties).

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The results of the study found that 'normal' transit times range anywhere from 14 hours to over 58 hours, with a typical time of around 29 hours. Meaning, it's handy to know your own body and what's 'normal' for you as an individual.

"A gut transit time of 14–58 hours is a good place to be, and indicates that your gut is working as it should," says the website of ZOE, while stressing that transit time is also affected by many factors such as diet, hydration levels, medication and lifestyle. "We found that shorter transit times were generally associated with better health, having less belly fat, and healthier responses to food."

It continues on to say, "There was also a difference in diet and gut microbiome composition between people with shorter and longer transit times, with specific foods and strains of bacteria associated with speedier or slower poops.

"With longer transit times, we often found more microbes that feed on protein and fewer fiber-loving bugs that produce helpful molecules called short-chain fatty acids that are linked to better gut health. Interestingly, we also found that people with longer transit times were more likely to have a greater diversity of microbes in their gut, which is often associated with better gut health. This suggests that more microbiome diversity may not always be a sign of better health for people who don’t poop very often."

It adds that it's really not a race to the finish line either, as people with the "very fastest transit times", suggesting they had diarrhea, tended to have a less healthy gut microbiome.

So there you have it: the Blue Poop Challenge. At least now, should you stumble across a pal posting about it on social media, you know they haven't accidentally ingested a Smurf. Probably.

Visit the ZOE website for more information on how to bake your own blue muffins and take part in the Blue Poop Challenge.

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