A spoonful of sugar may or may not help the medicine go down – Mary Poppins wasn’t a doctor after all – but something a lot less palatable may help you shed the pounds.
Researchers from Australia have found obese rats who ate a certain type of clay lost more weight than those that were given a weight-loss drug.
Maybe hold off on trying to get Glastonbury resale tickets in April, because even without any medical qualifications, I can categorically say eating the mud there, is not going to do anyone any favours.
While eating mud may have been around since the time of ancient Greeks, celebrities like Shailene Woodley (actor) and Elle Macpherson have brought the practice of eating clay back in trend, the Daily Mail reports.
Geophagy – its official name – is practiced around the world and is most common with pregnant women and children. Although I don’t ever recall eating dirt as a kid, and I turned out fine.
The eating of non-food things is categorised as an eating disorder in many cultures, and is known as Pica.
The 2015 documentary Eat White Dirt looked at how Southerners chow down on kaolin, a white clay formed from mineral deposits. Kaolin can be found in the anti-diarrhea drug Kaopectate.
However, it wasn’t from consuming clay, but rather by accident the researchers from the University of South Australia came to their discovery after trying to find compounds which could improve the way the body absorbs antipsychotic pills.
Tahnee Dening, a PhD candidate, said:
I noticed that the clay particles weren’t behaving as I’d expected.
Instead of breaking down to release drugs, the clay materials were attracting fat droplets and literally soaking them up. Not only were the clay materials trapping the fats within their particle structure, but they were also preventing them from being absorbed by the body, ensuring that fat simply passed through the digestive system.
It’s this unique behavior that immediately signaled we could be onto something significant – potentially a cure for obesity.
Dening and her fellow researchers tested their theory by feeding a group of rats high-fat diets plus one of three supplements: the weight-loss drug, orlistat, a clay called montmorillonite or a placebo.
Those that ate the clay supplement gained the least weight, suggesting it was better at flushing weight than the approved drugs.
Orlistat on the other hand stopped the rats’ bodies from digesting fat. They now want to try the two in combination.
While previous research on geophagy hasn’t found significant risks to eating clay in moderation, too much could cause constipation.
The researchers know they could have a blockbuster diet drug on their hands with successful research.
Dening’s supervisor, Dr Clive Prestige, said:
With a finding like this, people will naturally be keen to find out when they can try it. Given that the material is generally considered safe and is widely used in food and nutraceutical products, it is feasible that human clinical trials could start reasonably soon.
Let’s loosen those belts at the Christmas table then!
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