Atkins, paleo, juice cleanses … people will try most anything to shed some pounds. How about freeze-dried poop? A clinical trial set to start this year will involve 20 obese patients taking capsules filled with freeze-dried stool from healthy donors to test researchers' hunch that intestinal microbes can influence people's weight, Ars Technica reports. "We have no idea what the result will be," the lead researcher admits. However, researchers do have some anecdotal support for the idea that introducing healthy new gut microbes into a person can affect weight. In one study cited by Ars, researchers took gut microbes from a set of twins and put them into some mice. One of the twins was lean, the other was obese. Mice that received microbes from the obese twin got chubby.
Restoring the balance of gut microbes via fecal transplant has been used to treat intestinal Clostridium difficile infections, the New York Times reports. In one case, per Ars, a woman received a fecal matter transplant from her healthy-yet-overweight daughter. The woman's infection was cured, but she began to gain weight. One challenge for the whole enterprise has been creating a suitable capsule to get the job done, the Times notes. Capsules typically dissolve in feces, so when they contain feces, they dissolve from the inside out. A nonprofit called OpenBiome, however, created a capsule that makes use of "aqueous fat" and doesn't break down until it enters the small intestine. The Times notes that researchers are studying the use of poop to treat other maladies as well, such as Crohn's disease. "Without capsules," one doctor says, "we wouldn't be able to do this kind of work." (Speaking of fecal matter, it's in your ground beef.)