My post about zeolite & the supposedly ‘chemical-free’ nature of various dietary supplements containing the stuff led to some interesting comments, & generated a few ‘I wonder if…’ moments. After all, as Krebiozen said (in the comments thread to that post): With the right sales pitch you could probably persuade some people that eating feline ‘tootsie rolls’ is good for them. They are 100% natural after all!
And goodness knows, if people will eat kitty litter itself (some brands are basically just zeolite) for its supposed health benefits **, he might just have a point. After all, how much of a step is it from coffee beans that have been through the gut of a civet to some of the other organic (see, that’s a Good word) materials emanating from the back end of a feline? As Herr Doktor said, there’s probably quite a bit of nutrients there, given that cats (being carnivores) have a relatively short gut & a reasonably rapid transit time (you will find perhaps more than you wanted to know about cats, their guts, & the products of said guts here): once ingested, food may reach the large intestine within 8 hours, although it may take well over a day to move on out from that point. (This was determined by giving cats capsules containing radioactive markers – after first emptying the colon using a series of enemas. Cats have an alarming array of sharp pointy bits – I would not care to try administering one enema, let along a series of them!)
Of course, much of the mass of faeces is actually bacteria: around 50%, in humans. So you’d want to scrub them out of the ‘tootsie rolls’, somehow. At first I thought you’d also need to remove the eggs from tapeworms and roundworms that would also be present in cat poo. But on second thoughts – why would you? After all, in newspapers from the early 1900s, you could find ads for diet pills containing tapeworm eggs (& there’s various urban myths around that may be based on this). And I was gobsmacked to find at least one website offering ‘diet pills’ that supposedly contain these eggs. (Whether they do or not is open to question.)
As for the roundworms… Well, any infection with a significant number of roundworms is going to leave you feeling rather the worse for wear. But an intriguing study from the University of Singapore suggests that a protein produced by a species of roundworm may possibly reduce the strength of allergic reactions. The impetus for this study was the observation that there seem to be fewer allergies in populations with a high burden of roundworms, something that’s also discussed in Robb Dunn’s entertaining book The Wild Life of Our Bodies: predators, parasites and partners that shape who we are today (2011, Harper Collins).
So, there’s our marketing ploy: all-natural, organic (& therefore ‘chemical-free’), & not only an excellent nutrient supplement but also a slimming aid & something that ‘supports your immune system.’ What’s not to like?
Except… if I can think of it, you can pretty much guarantee that somewhere, someone else will have beaten me to it. (As, indeed, the ads for tapeworm-egg diet pills demonstrate.) And also, imagination is one thing, & humour is good, but if you consider yourself a good, ethical person – & I do – then you’ll never go any further down that road.
** As Herr Doktor Bimler found out (see his first comment), at least one site selling ‘liquid zeolite’ promotes it as a means of removing teh ebil aluminium from your body. One suspects the person or persons making this claim are not chemists – for zeolite is an alumino-silicate mineral, & consuming the stuff is more likely to add to your overall aluminium load than it is to reduce it! (I would prefer to think that the sellers are ignorant of chemistry, as the alternative is that they know damn well what it is & don’t particularly care.)