Parents spend a good amount of energy worrying about poop. From the minute your baby's born, you're told how important it is to pay attention to their fecal matter so you can detect potential health concerns. But, it turns out, your child's feces may be more than a reflection of their health status. New research has shown that baby poop may be a great source of probiotics. Step aside, yogurt.
A new study out of Wake Field University published Thursday in the journal Nature found that gut bacteria derived from infant fecal matter can increase production of short-chain fatty acids — or SCFAs — which are the main source of energy for cells lining your colon, according to WXII 12. In particular, Wake Field University researchers collected fecal samples from 34 healthy babies, and made a probiotic "cocktail" using the 10 best strains out of 321 gut bacteria extracted from the baby feces. Then, the research team tested single and five doses of the strain blend in mice, as well as a human feces mixture meant to mimic the human digestive system, and discovered that the cocktail helped improve the production of SCFAs and regulated the gut microbiome in both mice and the human feces medium, WXII reported.
Lead research Hariom Yadav, assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said in a statement, according to Live Science:
Short-chain fatty acids are a key component of good gut health. People with diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders and cancers frequently have fewer short-chain fatty acids. Increasing them may be helpful in maintaining or even restoring a normal gut environment, and hopefully, improving health.
And, it turns out, even single doses of the probiotic cocktail caused a boost in short-chain fatty acids production, as well as maintained a healthy balance of gut bacteria, in both mice and the human feces medium, according to the study's findings.
So what does this mean for adults looking to improve their gut health? Well, Yadav said, according to WXII 12:
This work provides evidence that these human-origin probiotics could be exploited as biotherapeutic regimens for human diseases associated with gut microbiome imbalance and decreased SCFA production in the gut.
In other words: Eventually, the gut bacteria found in infant fecal matter could be extracted and used in treatments that could help people with diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions that compromise how much short-chain fatty acid they produce.
Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time researchers have discovered the benefits of baby poop. A 2014 study published in the journal Meat Science found that bacteria from infant fecal matter could make sausages healthier, according to Slate. For the study, Spanish researchers took three bacteria strains found in baby poop and made a version of a Mediterranean fermented pork sausage known as "fuet." Professional tasters said those sausages tasted like the real thing, but they were lower in fat, lower in salt, and overall healthier, according to the 2014 study.
It's also worth pointing out that extracting probiotics from human fecal matter is not actually weird — or all that stomach-churning. Some probiotics that people consume from a daily basis come from human poop, according to Slate. In fact, one of them, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, can be found in milk, fruit drinks, buttermilks, and yogurts, among other food products, Slate reported.
But don't expect to see probiotic supplements derived from baby poop on store shelves anytime soon. The Nature study published this week merely provides a fountain for future studies, which first need to be conducted, investigating "the influence of probiotics on human microbiome, metabolism and associated diseases," Yadav noted, according to Live Science.