The Poop Gap

There’s a new article out in Science tracing the splits in gut flora. It looks as if the gut bacteria in chimpanzees split with those in humans 5.3 million years: doesn’t quite match our genetic estimates based on Human/chimp autosomal DNA differences, but it’s in the ball park. They estimate the human-gorilla split at 15.6 million year ago, but that can’t be right: we know that gorillas split off just a bit before the human-chimp split. Perhaps gorilla diet changed drastically, and maybe they picked up new bacteria from some other species.

Different populations of modern humans apparently have pretty different microbiomes. The gut bacteria from people in Malawi appear to have diverged 1.7 million years ago from those in Europeans (people from Connecticut). That is surely too old to be a consequence of modern humans’ trek out of Africa: it looks as if AMH, after leaving Africa, picked up gut flora from archaic sapiens like Neanderthals and Denisovans and dwarves.

Microbiomes are trendy. We know that fecal transplants can cure C difficile (pseudomembranous colitis) lickety-split: they might help with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some researchers think the microbiome has something to do with the initiation of multiple sclerosis. Others suspect that it may play a role regulating how people think and feel – in particular, mood disorders. Autism has been mentioned.

So.. Poop matters: it certainly can affect health, and it may influence brain function. People from sub-Saharan have divergent poop, or you could say that Eurasians do. Are there differences in brain function between sub-Saharan Africans and Eurasians? Sure: Africans do poorly on IQ tests and in academic subjects. They have significant higher rates of schizophrenia, higher murder rates, etc.

Maybe it’s the poop. It’s worth checking out. Perhaps the fault lies not in our stars, or our genes, but in our stool.

Already, eager experimenters – paleos on stilts – are trying to dramatically modulate their internal flora.

“AS THE SUN set over Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, nearly thirty minutes had passed since I had inserted a turkey baster into my bum and injected the feces of a Hadza man – a member of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherers tribes in the world – into the nether regions of my distal colon. I struggled to keep my legs in the air with my toes pointing towards what I thought was the faint outline of the Southern Cross rising in the evening sky. With my hands under my hips – and butt perched against a large rock for support – I peddled an imaginary upside down bicycle in the air to pass the time as I struggled to make sure my new gut ecosystem stayed put inside me.”

The problem, he’s likely running this in the wrong direction, unless he’s just gotten a high-paying job as a professional hunter-gatherer. Generally, we want to better adapt people to key features of industrial civilization, like eating Chicago-style pizza while doing calculus homework, rather than shooting pizened arrows at gazelles.

Judging from Common Core, the standard approach with a potentially gap-closing panacea is to impose it on the entire country without running any careful, small-scale tests. Fortunately, due to Sturgeon’s Law, we don’t ever have to worry about running out of raw material.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. There’s a potential show-stopper

The question is – are blacks in the mood to take any more shit from the Man?

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48 Responses to The Poop Gap

  1. Ron Pavellas says:

    When I was at the School of Public Health in Berkeley (during the ‘Free Speech movement’), I cleverly coined the phrase “Fight Feces! Get your Fecal Decal Today!)’ I can see now that I was Oh So Wrong.

  2. akarlin says:

    Might also have intersections with national IQ.

    One idea I’ve been mulling over for a long time (though not taking it seriously enough to make an explicit post about it) is that gut flora specific to different biomes might function as some sort of longterm IQ stabilizing mechanism. One of the bigger, so far as I know still unresolved, questions is how Irish IQ had by the turn of the millennium essentially recovered to the British average after experiencing a 150 year long brain drain.

    Though TBH this is probably BS.

    In contrast, fecal DGGE proŽ les of marital partners, which are living in the same environment and which have comparable feeding habits, showed low similarity which was not signiŽcantly different from that of unrelated individuals.

    • alex2 says:

      Were there any studies on adults in Ireland?

      I saw a table with the Irish once, and the studies were of <13 year olds.

  3. Frank says:

    If you look at the deposited raw sequencing data for the study, there is abundant enough human DNA to tell you that some of the 16 Connecticut humans are African Americans, yet they have Connecticut-style gut flora.

    The fecal transfers from very divergent humans around the globe may actually be a good idea for Americans, as now a few generations there have been taking antibiotics regularly. Humans co-evolved with their gut microbes, so starting out with nothing after a clean sweep with broad spectrum antibiotics is very unlikely to be a benefit to your health.

  4. Since poop shows the wrong sort of diversity, the poop gap must be closed by designing tests that are not biased. Grant application follows.

  5. dearieme says:

    Percentages vary. Thus Terry Arthur’s old classic “95 per cent is Crap: A Plain Man’s Guide to British Politics”.

  6. SonOfRekab says:

    Screw Mars, it’s the race to Uranus….

    If this works Israel could be one of the worlds leading exporters (after the US) of top quality poop.
    In your face KSA, it is the age of the brown gold.

  7. Frank says:

    There has to be a better way than using a turkey baster while standing on your head pretending to ride a bike. Has anyone here used a different method?

  8. Dale says:

    Surely, this post was written starting with the last sentence!

  9. spottedtoad says:

    Hmm…you can imagine that genes affect the intestinal environment, causing certain bugs to flourish versus others. But paternal ancestry would matter a lot less than maternal if exposure to the bugs themselves were critical.

  10. Greying Wanderer says:

    Seems to me there’s a sub-population you might be able to test this idea on but i don’t want to think about it.

  11. Frank says:

    I would suppose that the ability to regularly wash your hands with sterile water has had an effect on the gut microbiome, but then I ride on the subway and think not.

    But then again, a lot of these bacteria can’t stand oxygen for too long, so most transmission should still be from parent to child. A parent poops, touches their own poop on accident, and then immediately transmits it to the child.

    Any other thoughts on the normal route of transmission?

  12. JayMan says:

    “The question is – are blacks in the mood to take any more shit from the Man?”

    LMAO! Funniest thing I’ve seen so far this year!

    • MEH 0910 says:

      “Perhaps the fault lies not in our stars, or our genes, but in our stool.”

      “eager experimenters – paleos on stilts”

      Greg always has great sardonic wit, but he was in particularly rare form when he wrote this piece.

  13. Lars says:

    Papa Del’s?

  14. TipTipTopKek says:

    So if the microbes inhabiting one’s colon have an impact on brain function, what are the implications for MSM who regularly inject foreign microbes into their colons through anal sex, or whose sexual organs are frequently covered with the foreign feces of others? Especially when we’re not considering occasional or rare transfers, but instead many thousands of lifetime transfers from hundreds of different donors?

  15. panjukey says:

    We must close the scatological pedagogy gap. Only education can make all poop equal & no poop left behind. The common core microbiome can create fecal equity, because every child a pooper. We must reduce or plug all gaps, even if we have to do it through reverse coprophagia.

  16. MawBTS says:

    So you’re saying that when a chimp flings shit it’s trying to help us?

  17. Gut flora are in competition with our digestive tract for calories. This is why antibiotics are placed into the feed of our domesticated animals. Greg had a column on this a while back.

    Seeing that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic i wonder how many times i have my head up ass with the following speculation. Sugar eating gut flora suppositories that out compete your digestive tract for a couple thousand calories. I can see the TV ad now.

    “Jim! That is your second piece of chocolate cake! How can you eat all that and stay so slim?”
    ” Well Bob, now i can eat anything i want whenever I want thanks to Healthy Glutton, those magic pills that let you enjoy your food and eat all you want! Theeeeere Great!”

    Voice over
    “Yesssir Healthy Glutton has lots of sugar eating microbes that let you consume another 2000 calories for every pill!”

    Are you listening Big Pharma?

    • IC says:

      “Gut flora are in competition with our digestive tract for calories. This is why antibiotics are placed into the feed of our domesticated animals. Greg had a column on this a while back”.


      That is was my speculation (hypothesis) which still need research to confirm.

      • IC says:

        In developed nations, food preservatives are also bacteriostatic which also make bacteria dormant. This might contribute the fattening effect of western diet.

      • Is this really an open question. I think not but I defer to medical experts who know more than i do. It just seems obvious to me that at least a percentage of the gut flora have a happy home thanks to the goodies shared by both the digestive tract and the microbes that live there. Which is why a small constant dose of antibiotics in animal feed makes the animal feed 10 percent more effective in fattening our future supper.

    • IC says:

      In real life, you just need to visit India for couple of weeks. You will lose weight big time. No matter what you do, you will get diarrhea. No only bacteria competing for the calories, they actually make you food calories passing through your body fast into toilet. lol.

      I lost over 20 Lbs after two weeks travel in India.

      Hm, this makes me thinking about annual weight loss pilgrimage in India.

  18. says:

    There is definately a poop gap between the high and low income population. To be in the high income group you need to have on average less poop but can also significantly have more poop than the rest.

    Daily wet and dry mass produced by humans from low and high income populations
        Wet weight  Wet weight  Dry weight  Dry weight
        (g/cap/day) (g/cap/day) (g/cap/day) (g/cap/day)
        High income*    Low income* High income*    Low income*
    Median  126 250 28  38
    n   95  17  57  8
    Minimum 51  75  12  18
    Maximum 796 520 81  62
    Skewness    4.178   0.598   2.378   0.098
    Std. error of skewness  0.248   0.550   0.327   0.752
    Mean    149 243 30  39
    St dev  95.0    130.2   11.7    14.1
    Variance    9024    16,960  136 201
    • IC says:

      If this is not joke, the data indicate that high income people likely eat less than low income people. A sign of self-control.. Body Mass Index should be collected with this research. Very likely low BMI is correlated with diet self-control.

    • MawBTS says:

      Low income people drink more. Beer shits?

    • says:

      Low incomers eat too much junk foods. 10% cellulose before digestion might be, say, 50% at the other end.

      “””No matter where it comes from, though, the body reacts to cellulose in the same way: by not digesting it. Cellulose is a fiber, so by definition, our bodies can’t break it down, Palmer explains. Instead, it gets passed right on out.”””

  19. Cloudswrest says:

    The thought that exogenous input could have developmental nootropic influence is interesting. One also wonders how much group intellectual differences are due to complex brain structure differences as compared to a simple knob that gets turned more during development.

  20. jef says:

    And for those who call in the next 15 minutes, they will receive a second foot- long floater free of charge (except for shipping and handling).

  21. whyteablog says:

    The Fecal Hypothesis: racial IQ differences come from our poop.

    I do wonder why half Black children who get most of their gut flora from their White mothers still have sub-100 IQs on average. Or why the effect isn’t ameliorated after a few hundred years of living in the same area.

    It could explain a point or two, but I’m not crossing my fingers and waiting for magic poop to explain an entire standard deviation in IQ.

  22. markus says:

    Mr. Cochran,
    I remembered reading this posting when you released it but it came to mind because you mention Crohn’s disease. I have just returned from a colonoscopy, endoscopy and MRI with my nine year old daughter and Crohn’s disease has been diagnosed by a gastroenterologist. I have looked online at various Crohn’s websites and there seem to be two schools of thought in terms of cause of the disease. Those who attribute it to Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (the same one that causes Johne’s disease in cattle) and those who are not sure and are seeking another cause. The first side with Dr. John Hermon-Taylor are working on a vaccine and they seem to be at odds with the rest of the medical community who prescribe medicine to ameliorate the effects of the disease but not cure it. The Gastroenterologist that saw my daughter was quite dismissive of the connection between Crohn’s disease and Johne’s disease when I brought it up.
    So, in a roundabout way, I am writing to see if you can email me a response. I am concerned for the welfare of my daughter and if you can offer any insight or suggestions I would be much obliged.

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