A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! The medicine go down! Ah, it's arguably the greatest song from the original Mary Poppins, and while Julie Andrew's character might have been right, I doubt that she could have imagined that in 2018, people would be swallowing a very different substance in the sake of their health. Namely, dirt.
While there's a lot of things that have the potential to go wrong in the ol' health department, one of the most prevalent and easily preventable issues is obesity. In a world where it's easy and cheap to eat junk food, people's waistlines are growing at an alarming rate, and according to Harvard University, 35% of today's youth will be obese by the age of 35.
To discover the role genetics play in obesity, check out the video below:
As a result, the dieting industry is booming as people desperately clamor for an effective weight loss solution (pro tip: buying "skinny" meals and not exercising is unlikely to do anything). And just this week, news broke that scientists had discovered that by switching off this gene, us humans could eat anything without gaining weight. Great news, right?
But as we all know, a balanced diet is necessary in order to be healthy and there is such a thing as being "skinny fat". You know the people I'm talking about, they can eat anything - and I mean anything - and not gain a single pound.
While we'd probably all like to be skinny fat, even if does lead us to an early death, most of us have to wear what passes through our lips on the hips, and since the anti-obesity pill is still a long way off, you'll be glad to hear that researcher's latest discovery in the war against fat is literally everywhere. It turns out that eating a certain type of dirt can flush fat out of your system.
In a study, Australian researchers found that when rats consumed a certain type of clay, they lost more weight than those which were given an alternative anti-obesity drug. However, despite the research being recent, it's far from a new phenomenon.
Incredibly, the Ancient Greeks ate dirt (presumably to lose weight), and this ancient practice has previously been brought back by celebrities including Shailene Woodley and Elle Macpherson, who have consumed it while on detoxes.
And while it might sound like madness, it turns out that they've all been onto something.
Although most radical diets and cleanses are as crazy as they sound (some even have the potential to be deadly), despite dirt sounding like a disgusting and possibly dangerous dietary supplement, it could actually be good for you.
The practice of eating dirt is known as geophagy, and putting the Ancient Greeks to the side for a moment, it's also commonly practiced among pregnant women and children. In fact, it's been reported in every continent.
However, most cultures, including most people in the US class geophagy as an eating disorder. Filing it under the disorder of eating things which aren't food, known as Pica.
But in the South, it's a common practice and was the subject of the 2015 documentary Eat White Dirt, which examines Southerners' penchant for eating kaolin, a form of white clay.
Kaolin is also found in the anti-diarrheal drug Kaopectate.
According to anthropological research, this is why we humans have been eating dirt since, well, the dawn of time. Whenever someone's had an upset stomach, for some unknown reason, they've been drawn to dirt.
But it was by accident that University of South Australia researchers found that a different kind of dirt could do a lot more.
During the research, Ph.D. candidate, Tahnee Dening, was trying to discover what compounds have the ability to improve the body's ability to absorb antipsychotic pills.
"I noticed that the clay particles weren't behaving as I'd expected," she said.
"Instead of breaking down to release drugs, the clay materials were attracting fat droplets and literally soaking them up. Not only were the clay materials trapping the fats within their particle structure, but they were also preventing them from being absorbed by the body, ensuring that fat simply passed through the digestive system.
"It's this unique behavior that immediately signaled we could be onto something significant - potentially a cure for obesity."
However, it's not known if the clay used in the study was the kind used in celebrity detoxes or the kaolin eaten in the South.
But all of this ultimately begs one question: would you be willing to, quite literally, get down and dirty, in a bid to lose weight?