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What Processed Food Looks Like during Digestion-of Course It's Not Pretty [Video]


If you ever wondered how your body handled all those packaged ramen noodles you ate during college, this video’s for you. Stefani Bardin, a TEDxManhattan fellow, wants to learn how digestion differs between food chock full of preservatives and food that can actually go bad in a day.

To create this video, she and her collaborator, Braden Kuo of Harvard University, had two volunteers swallow a camera pill along with their meals (which included Gatorade and Gummi bears). The camera—here, called an M2A pill (for “mouth to anus”)—produced a stop-motion video down to the small intestine. Such cameras have limited medical uses, but boy, they sure do create a fun “Fantastic Voyage”-like experience. The video's actual alimentary angle begins at the two-minute mark.

Next on the list ought to be hot dogs, considering all the chemicals in them.

UPDATED 2/24/12: I spoke with Bardin and Kuo today and made changes above to note that they had two volunteers eat the pills, which cost $600 each. They also mentioned that, when the subjects swapped meals, the noodles looked the same, suggesting that chewing (or lack thereof) was not responsible for the appearance of the noodles. They only have preliminary data from the other pill and would need more volunteers to determine whether the apparent slower digestion of processed foods has any physiological significance.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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