It’s strange but true, new research has found that eating soil could help with weight loss. While we’re certainly not recommending heading into your garden with a spoon (!) researchers from the University of South Australia have discovered by accident that consuming clay helped participants reduce their weight.
Eating dirt or clay is actually an ancient custom in many cultures, and has been historically identified on every continent in the world. It’s known as geophagy and is an especially common craving during pregnancy for many women.
In Southern America it’s still a common practice, with many people eating kaolin, a white clay made from mineral deposits. The clay has properties that are thought to ease stomach pains.
The news about weight loss being linked with clay eating was actually discovered by accident, when researchers were looking for compounds that could improve the way the body absorbs antipsychotic pills.
‘I noticed that the clay particles weren’t behaving as I’d expected,’ says Tahnee Dening, a PhD candidate who conducted the study.
‘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.’
The study, which involved mice, found that those eating a clay supplement gained less weight on a high-fat diet than others, suggesting that clay was flushing fat from their system.
The team behind the research now hope to test clay supplements in combination with a drug called Orlistat, which blocks the body from digesting fat.
‘We’re hoping this will lead to greater weight loss with fewer side effects,’ says Dening.