'Blue poop challenge' aims to provide insight into the importance of gut health

A new social media challenge is providing insight into the importance of gut health, one blue muffin at a time.

The so-called “blue poop challenge” was created by health-care technology company ZOE and is part of a global nutrition study called PREDICT.

The movement challenges participants to eat a muffin that contains blue food colouring and then to measure the time it takes from the moment they put it in their mouth, until it comes out the other end.

Tim Spector, one of the authors of the study conducted by scientists out of King's College London, says the challenge can tell people a lot about their bodies, just by the amount of time it takes the muffin to go through their system.

"You can't mistake when it comes out in the toilet, it's pretty obvious," he told CTV Morning Live in an interview Thursday. "This is a new way of actually gauging your gut health."

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Gut, which saw 863 healthy people eat food coloured with blue dye in order to monitor their gut transit time.

"This is an at-home test that everyone can do to test themselves and their family and work out how healthy their inner body is," said Spector.

He adds that people may be surprised to find out their gut microbiome isn't as healthy as they might think.

"When most people think about gut health, they think about having bloating or pain or gastric problems, but your microbiome might be much sicker."

According to the study, longer gut transit times translated to more undesirable bacteria while shorter transit times indicated a healthier gut.

Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique, which is partly determined by one’s genetics and is the reason why response times can vary.

"The average transit time is 28 hours," Spector said. "But we don’t think that’s particularly healthy. The sweet spot is between 15 to 20 hours."

"Many people in the study have had several days of transit time and we know that’s not particularly good. Some people do have lazy guts, we want to alert those people that they need to pay more attention to their diet," he said.

Those interested in taking part in the challenge can visit the ZOE website and input their transit time to see how they compare to others.

Spector says another beneficial aspect of the challenge is just getting people to talk about it.

"We don’t talk about poop much, so I want start the conversation," he said.