Research on athletes' poop samples may lead to endurance pills

24 Aug 2017 | By Vaneet Randhawa
The modern reality of probiotics and fitness pills

A microbiologist at Harvard Medical School, Jonathan Scheiman may soon come up with an endurance probiotic pill.

For this, he has been studying various poop (fecal) samples of elite long-distance runners and rowers.

His research so far points towards the fact that these athletes' fecal matter contains a "collection of bacteria capable of breaking down lactic acid" leading to their accelerated endurance levels.

In context: The modern reality of probiotics and fitness pills

So hot right now?Popularity of probiotics in today's world

We have always heard about the good bacteria but this decade has seen a sudden zeal for probiotics.

A study conducted by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that between 2006-12 the probiotic use has tripled in hospitals.

Records reveal that in 2012, probiotics were prescribed in 2.6% of overall 1 million (approximately 52,000) compared to 1.0% cases in 2006.

No evidence of successProbiotics in rage but no concrete evidence of their success

Research contends that probiotics help in "fighting live cancer" and to get rid of yeast infections.

Despite the rampant prescriptions, there is no conclusive evidence that the probiotics actually work.

While they are prescribed alongside antibiotics, some even claim that they are harmful to ICU patients who don't have the strength even to fight the 'good bacteria'.

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24 Aug 2017Research on athletes' poop samples may lead to endurance pills

Scheiman's observations: How runners vary from rowers?

DetailsScheiman's observations: How runners vary from rowers?

On studying the fecal samples of ultramarathoners, Scheiman observed that they have bacteria at an elevated level than the Olympic rowers.

These micro-organisms help "harvest energy from food."

However, rowers didn't have similarly high levels of the same bacteria as they exert energy for a shorter time compared to the ultra runners who maximize endurance for longer periods.

How soon will this research turn into a pill?

Scheiman's work may sound good to hear but before getting materialized into a pill, the work has to be published in academic journals for thorough scrutiny. Even when it takes the form of probiotic supplement, it needs to be proven that the pill works.