The Blue Poop Challenge is a social media campaign started by the healthcare technology company ZOE to raise awareness and study gut health around the globe. The company said in a press release is “conducting the largest in-depth nutrition study globally (PREDICT),” and, “launched the #bluepoopchallenge to encourage people all over the world to get insight into their own gut health.”
According to ZOE, the challenge, launched on May 18, 2021, is rooted in research from its PREDICT study, which was published by its scientists in the peer-reviewed journal Gut in March 2021. ZOE said in the press release, “To begin the challenge, participants eat two muffins for breakfast and track the time it takes until blue-green poop appears. After participants enter their gut transit times on bluepoopchallenge.com and answer a few simple health questions, ZOE will reveal fascinating and fun gut health insights based on comparing them to thousands of participants in ZOE’s research studies.”
Dr. Sarah Berry, reader of nutrition sciences at King’s College London, who was the co-lead author on the study, said in a statement, “There are several scientific ways of measuring gut transit time, such as swallowing special capsules or a small wireless device.” She added, “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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the Blue Poop Challenge:
1. The Blue Muffins Can Be Made at Home With This Recipe or Bought From ZOE in the U.S.
The blue muffins for the challenge can be made at home using a recipe provided by ZOE or, for U.S. residents, can be purchased from the company at bluepoopchallenge.com.
The recipe can be seen in the video above and is also available here at ZOE’s website. The website also provides recommendations for food dyes.
ZOE says on the website about the pre-made muffins, “Learning about your gut health is important. Not everyone can bake their own blue muffins, so we have a limited number of vegan muffins available to purchase. We’ll send you enough for you and a friend, so you can compare results. The goal of the #bluepoopchallenge is to raise awareness of the importance of the gut microbiome, so we’re providing them at cost and aren’t taking a profit.”
2. ZOE Says Its Studies Have Shown Shorter Transmit Times Are ‘Generally Associated With Better Health, Less Abdominal Fat & Healthier Responses to Food’
The gut research paper, Blue Poo: Impact of Gut Transit Time on the Gut Microbiome Using a Novel Marker, was published in March 2021. According to the abstract, “Gut transit time is a key modulator of host–microbiome interactions, yet this is often overlooked, partly because reliable methods are typically expensive or burdensome. The aim of this single-arm, single-blinded intervention study is to assess (1) the relationship between gut transit time and the human gut microbiome, and (2) the utility of the ‘blue dye’ method as an inexpensive and scalable technique to measure transit time.”
ZOE said in its press release, “The tests revealed that shorter transit times were generally associated with better health, less abdominal fat, and healthier responses to food.” ZOE added:
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 poops. Those with longer transit 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.
It was also discovered that people with slower poops were more likely to have a greater diversity of microbes in their gut, 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 very often. Moreover, people with very fast transit times, suggesting they had diarrhea, tended to have a less healthy gut microbiome.
Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, who started the PREDICT study and who is a scientific founder of ZOE, said in a statement, “The key to health and weight loss lies not in the latest fad diet or calories consumed, but in 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 to take that first step.”
3. ZOE’s Scientists Say Those Who Take Part in the Challenge Can Change Their Microbiome in Weeks After Getting the Results
Jonathan Wolf, the co-founder and CEO of ZOE, said in a statement, “You can change your microbiome in weeks; it doesn’t take years. But first, you need to understand what is going on inside your body. The Blue Poop Challenge is a fun and engaging program designed to drive awareness of how important your gut health is. As I tell my kids, once you realize you are feeding your microbiome with everything you eat, it transforms how you think about food.”
The press release from ZOE says, “The #bluepoopchallenge aims to spread ZOE’s mission of helping people reach their best health by discovering how their body works. With their first-of-its-kind at-home test kit and personalized nutrition program, ZOE can help consumers improve their health and reduce weight by reducing dietary inflammation and improving their gut health by retraining their body from the inside out.”
The bluepoopchallenge.com website provides a FAQ and help for those taking the challenge.
ZOE’s scientists also published a study in January 2021 in Nature Medicine, which, “revealed the strong links between your health, the foods you eat and specific “good” and “bad” gut microbes,” according to its website.
ZOE adds, “Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, and each time you poop, you flush away billions of them. What you eat has a huge impact on the kinds of microbes that live in your gut. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by supporting digestion, immune health, and many other aspects of your overall health. The wrong balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut microbes can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, obesity and other health problems. While gut transit time is just one piece of the puzzle, understanding yours can give you some insight into what’s going on inside your gut.”
4. Athletes, Celebrities & Influencers Have Posted About Taking Part in the #BluePoopChallenge on Social Media
Some athletes, celebrities and influences have gotten involved in the #BluePoopChallenge along with others on social media. Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning tweeted on May 18, “My friends at @Join_ZOE sent me these muffins. Don’t tell Abby but I am going to let Charlie eat one as well and see how she responds when she changes his diaper. “Go Big Blue” will have a new meaning!! #bluepoopchallenge.”
ZOE also posted a video of actor Emma Thompson and her husband, fellow actor Greg Wise, taking part in the challenge. The company wrote on Instagram, “Why are Emma and Greg eating blue muffins? It’s for science. Head to the link in our bio and join the #bluepoopchallenge 💙💩”
Dr. Richa Mittal wrote on Instagram, “Gut health, weight wellness and risk for “chronic lifestyle diseases” like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers are closely linked- you know I’m all about prevention!”
5. ZOE Helped in the Battle Against the Coronavirus Pandemic With Its COVID-19 Study App
According to its press release, “ZOE is a healthcare science company helping people understand their body’s responses to food. By using machine learning combined with large-scale human studies, ZOE is decoding the impact of nutrition on health.” The company is based in London and Boston and was founded by Spector, Wolf and entrepreneur George Hadjigeorgiou.
ZOE played a role in the coronavirus pandemic fight with its COVID Study app. According to its website, “The COVID symptom tracker was created by doctors and scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, King’s College London and Stanford University School of Medicine, working codeveloped with ZOE – a health science company. The app will be used to study the symptoms of COVID-19 and track the spread of this virus. ”
The company adds, “This research aims to help scientists understand COVID-19 , with the following specific aims: Better understand the symptoms of COVID-19; Understand how fast the virus is spreading in your area; Identify high-risk areas in the country; Identify who is most at risk by better understanding symptoms linked to health conditions; Identify the exposure of healthcare workers to COVID-19; and In the future, we hope we will be able to use this data to help health services support sick individuals. This app is not intended to be a diagnostic tool. For official advice about the coronavirus please visit the CDC website.”