By using machine learning combined with large scale human studies, the healthcare technology company is decoding the impact of nutrition on health, one bowel movement at a time. ZOE is behind the PREDICT and ZOE COVID Study, the world's largest community-powered research programs of their kind, according to the company, which located in London and Boston.
Fifty shades of cyan
To begin the #bluepoopchallenge, participants can purchase a blue muffin test kit at bluepoopchallenge.com. From there, participants are invited to eat two muffins for breakfast and track the time it takes for the blue poo to appear.
Once participants enter their gut transit times on blue poop challenge website and answer a few health questions, the company will reveal gut health insights from ZOE's research studies.
The ZOE PREDICT study asked thousands of participants to eat blue muffins so they could measure their transit time by observing the change in the color of their stools. The research, published in the journal Gut, found that transit times varied from less than 12 hours to many days, with an average time of around 29 hours.
To explore the links between transit time, gut microbes, and health, ZOE analyzed the gut microbiomes of each participant and collected data about their diet and health.
"There are several scientific ways of measuring gut transit time, such as swallowing special capsules or a small wireless device,” explained Dr. Sarah E. Berry, Reader in Nutrition Sciences at King's College London and co-lead author of the new study. "But these methods are complicated and invasive and can't easily be done at home. Our data shows that transit time, tracked with blue dye, is an indicator of gut health, and is better than other non-invasive methods available."
The research also revealed that shorter transit times were generally associated with better health, less abdominal fat, and healthier responses to food. Findings also showed differences in diet and gut microbiome composition between people with shorter and longer transit times, with specific foods and strains of bacteria associated with speedier or slower transit times. Those with longer passage times had more microbes that feed on protein along with fewer fiber-loving bugs that produce helpful molecules called short-chain fatty acids, which are linked to better gut health.
Another finding was that people with slower transit times were more likely to have more diverse gut microbiomes, which is often associated with a healthy gut. This suggests that more microbiome diversity may not always be a sign of better health for people who don't poop as often. People with very fast transit times, perhaps suffering from diarrhea, tended to have a less healthy gut microbiome.
Professor Tim Spector, epidemiologist from King's College London and scientific founder of ZOE, said that the key to health and weight loss has nothing to do with fad diets and calories, and everything to do with the microbes inside us. "The Blue Poop Challenge is a simple way to find out what is going on in your gut. All you need are a couple of blue muffins and a spirit of curiosity.”