Frozen poop pills may be the key to beating obesity

Jan 13, 2016 at 11:41 p.m. ET
Image: GP Kidd/Blend Images/Getty Images

It sounds pretty disgusting, but some medical researchers are wondering if poop pills will aid weight loss for those battling obesity.

A group of researchers led by Elaine W. Yu, assistant professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, are currently conducting a randomized, placebo-controlled trial where 21 obese participants will take pills for 12 weeks, some containing cocoa powder (the placebo) and some containing fecal matter from lean, healthy patients each week for 12 weeks.

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The goal of the study is to find out how gut microbes contained in the fecal matter from fully vetted healthy people can affect body weight and insulin sensitivity in obese people.

"The donors go through a screening process that is more rigorous than what is required for blood donation," Yu told People, adding that every donor is approved by the FDA and "must meet strict weight criteria and are screened for medical, infectious and metabolic disorders."

There has been some precedent for this trial: An earlier study showed the transfer of gut microbes from lean donors into mice prevented obesity and insulin sensitivity. Another study on humans showed positive response, but the fecal matter was transferred endoscopically.

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"Multiple lines of evidence suggest that gut microbiota play an important role in regulating human metabolism," Yu and researchers explained in the trial proposal. "Major study outcomes include change in weight, insulin sensitivity, and body composition."

This all sounds great, but one more question: How will the pills taste?

"The pills are odorless, tasteless and double-encapsulated to ensure they will not release until they reach the right location in the large intestine," Dr. Yu told the New York Daily News. "We don't know what the results of this trial will be. I don't want to feed any frenzy of people jumping on this bandwagon."

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