If you enjoyed that post I made about a month ago about the scientist who purposefully put bees to sting his penis and testicles, I bet you will love this one!
So, let's first meet our hero, Frederick Hoelzel. As a teenager, he had a really unusual method to get that 6-pack for summer. You have probably heard the "eat lots of salads and other low caloric foods" advice to curb down your appetite and lose weight.
Well, Frederick took this advice to a whole new level and instead of salads ate non-caloric stuff like corn cobs, sawdust, cork, sponge, hair, feathers, asbestos, banana peels and of course his favorite snack, small pieces of surgical cotton. To be fair though, Frederick didn't do that to lose weight. Instead, he suffered from chronic gastrointestinal problems which he thought was due to eating too much normal food. For some weird reason, in his crazy mind eating non-digestible items like sawdust seemed liked a good alternative...
Fast forward some years and our hero is now a researcher at the University of Chicago. There he meets physiologist and expert in digestion, Anton Julius Carlson and the two immediately hit it off!
First, they tested to see if long term fasting would make the feeling of hunger go away. It didn't. 15 days later and many pounds less Frederick was still hungry:
Then, for some reason they decided to see how long it takes for various inedible stuff to come out from the other side:
"He scooped up gravel from the walkway outside the lab, swallowed it down, and recorded that it rattled out into his toilet fifty-two hours later. Steel ball bearings and bent pieces of silver wire each took approximately eighty hours to pass through him. Gold pellets moved at a leisurely pace through his intestines, only emerging after twenty-two days. Glass beads proved far quicker, speeding through his alimentary canal in a mere forty hours. His intestinal speed record was set by a piece of knotted twine that zipped through him in a mere one-and-a-half hours, aided along by a violent bout of diarrhea." [source]
From what I could find, Frederick continued these experiments until the 1930s. Supposedly, the only time when he actually ate exclusively real food was on Christmas. He never became a full professor and only reached the rank of "Assistant in Physiology" at the University of Chicago. However, his unusual eating habits did lead to "The Rate of Passage of Inert Materials through the Digestive Tract" paper getting published to the American Journal of Physiology.
Surprisingly, his weird "research" wasn't in vain:
He was one of the first scientists to suggest that overeating could possibly lead to death. His love of surgical cotton also led him to invent cellulose flour, which can be found in many diet products to make you feel fuller on less calories.So the next time you think about advancements in weight loss, tip your hat off to Frederick Hoelzel; if it wasn’t for his strange need to eat glass, we may not know as much as we do about digestion. [source]
Thanks to his ambiguous contribution in science, he became known in his times as "The Human Billy Goat":
And if you think Frederick had crazy eating habits then wait until I tell you a few words about Michel Lotito,(1950 - 2007). Michael rose to fame and became somewhat of a star for deliberately eating indigestible objects, like metal, glass, rubber and light bulbs. He even disassembled and ate ate a whole fucking Cessna 150, which took him 2 years to eat! He was even awarded a brass plaque by the Guinness Book and guess what? He ate that too! Here's a video showing him in action:
If you wanna lose weight and you are not afraid of death eating sawdust will do wonders for your silhouette!