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"It all ends up in the same place anyway"
February 11, 2012 9:53 AM   Subscribe

A "smartpill" is a type of endoscopic capsule camera that creates a video of the digestive process from entrance to exit. For Stefani Bardin's "M2A Project" film for TEDxManhattan, two subjects swallowed a smartpill capsule. One subject ate a meal of Top Ramen and Haribo Goldbears, together with a drink of blue Gatorade. The other subject ate a meal of homemade chicken noodle soup, together with naturally flavored and colored gummy bears and a hibiscus drink. The camera followed. [NSFLunch. Wired article for a quick overview.]

I stipulate that the creepiness of the footage on the left proves nothing about whether these foods are or are not nutritionally acceptable. Nonetheless, I state that it is really really cool to watch.
posted by Countess Elena (43 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's cool to watch, but the voice of the narrator is powerfully grating and distracting in its annoyance factor.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Agreed, the commentary was so bad it wasn't even wrong
posted by Blasdelb at 10:01 AM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for absolutely nothing.
*blarrrfffggglglhhnnng*
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2012


The gist I got from this: In our well-researched opinion, processed foods with scary names are bad. But instead of showing you data, here's a noodle.

This makes actual science look bad.
posted by hanoixan at 10:04 AM on February 11, 2012 [29 favorites]


Not that I stopped watching it or anything. No sound on this PC but it sure looked to me like someone didn't chew their food enough.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Top Ramen is made to survive Armageddon." So if you aren't taken up in the Rapture, make sure that you have a stash of Top Ramen on hand. Even if you don't survive, and all that's left of you is a pile of noodles, we'll have some data available for the final write-up of this research.
posted by maudlin at 10:05 AM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pretty axe-grindy narrative, kinda reminds me of those ads for colonic irrigation, with pictures of someone's bowel movements. "See, it obvious these BMs are diseased. Just look at them!"
posted by 2N2222 at 10:08 AM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Not that I stopped watching it or anything. No sound on this PC but it sure looked to me like someone didn't chew their food enough."

The gigantic looking size of the noodles is mostly a function of the tininess of the camera and the fact that we all think we chew better than we actually do. Thats not actually an abnormal looking ramen dinner.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2012


And it's weirdly obvious. Yes, Ramen noodles are not the healthiest type of food in the word. But what about noodles are they good for humans? The answer is probably, it depends.

Ok, the Ramen noodles are still discernible in shape after two hours in the stomach. Does that mean that anything that still has a recognizable shape after two hours in the stomach is bad for you? That sounds reasonable, but I don't know.

The project seems front loaded to get the results it wants as opposed to actual science. Which is fine in a way, it is an art project. But don't pretend its science, ok?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not that I'm backing up the claims made in the narration, but they were comparing Top Ramen (pretty thin noodles) and home-made ramen (also pretty thin noodles, but possibly thicker.) The home-made ramen seemed to de-noodleize much more quickly.
posted by maudlin at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2012


The whole "It's derived form oil, SCARY" thing kind of irks me. Guess what, so is a most synthetically produced medicine. There is no "Crude Oil label" on a molecule.

That said, bright blue beverages are kind of scary and it was pretty amazing that those noodles took so long to dissolve. She should have eaten some corn.
posted by dibblda at 10:13 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh, that could have been so good, but they just botched that in so many ways. The terrible narration. Calling the pill "mouth to anus"!! The list goes on and on...But the biggest problem I have is in their test meals. Ok, ramen noodles are bad, but how is their meal a whole food meal? Didn't they make their noodles with white flour? How does just buying it at a farmer's market make it non-processed? Why try and make healthy gummy bears? Why hibiscus gatorade? Why not just make the whole meal some vegetables, a piece of meat, and some water?

Instead of trying to make a meal of whole foods, they were so caught up in making a meal with the SAME SHAPE as the other meal in a pseudo-healthy way...that is beyond ridiculous!
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


from oil that is.....
posted by dibblda at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2012


Thats not actually an abnormal looking ramen dinner.

I think the point was that the other one broke down much quicker, so maybe you should be concerned if your noodles are not actually getting digested....

On the other hand, a sample of 2 is not so great, and I am not sure that the videos were compilations of both trials or not. Do this with a hundred people and show me that the Top Ramen doesn't digest, and I will worry. Not that I eat Top Ramen anyway.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:15 AM on February 11, 2012


I think that "M2A" acronym is going to leave residue in my digestive tract for at least seven years.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the end of the video: "Artists and doctors, and artists and scientists, should work together more often".

If this is the product - no. They shouldn't.
posted by BrandonW at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Mouth to anus" has a different meaning in Toronto.
posted by maudlin at 10:17 AM on February 11, 2012


I'm setting out to make a point I've already decided on = Rush Limbaugh <> scientist.

Sincerely,
A Scientist
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:19 AM on February 11, 2012


Not that I eat Top Ramen anyway.
Maruchan, TYVM.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2012


I think one of the biggest reasons why sciency sounding chemical names sound scary is that folks don't know what they mean, here is an annotated list of the ingredients in the noodles from ramen:

Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid),
    Normal enriched wheat flour, healthier than just about any 'natural' wheat flour older that 48 hours.
Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following: Canola Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Palm Oil),
    Nothing artificially hydrogenated, and while these are not ideal fats, they're not actually that bad.
Salt,
    The amount of salt in a full ramen dinner is legitimately pretty fucking terrible, though can be ameliorated by using a quarter of the salt packet
Sodium Tripolyphosphate,
    This helps to hydrate the noodles, not really scary, its considered GRAS for a reason
Potassium Carbonate,
    This has been known and used in food for centuries as pearl ash, again not scary
Sodium Carbonate,
    This has been known and used in food for centuries as soda ash, again not scary
Sodium Alginate,
    This is just an extract of seaweed, aborabs fuck tons of water very fast, so great for dehydrated products
Chili, Paprika,
    I'm guessing they wouldn't have issues with these
Tocopherols,
    functions as Vitamin E, has a bunch of potentially genuinely exciting uses as a supplement that alternative medicine has already wildly exaggerated, but not a bad thing.
T-BHQ
    A highly effective antioxident that helps keep fats from oxidizing, not scary in anywhere near the kinds of concentrations in ramen.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:27 AM on February 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


I stopped watching when the narrator said that the blue dye retains its color because it's made from oil.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:27 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This offends me in so many ways I'm almost speechless.

The project seems front loaded to get the results it wants as opposed to actual science. Which is fine in a way, it is an art project. But don't pretend its science, ok?

No, it's actually not fine even if we don't pretend it's science. It's not fine because it's making a claim that it does nothing to prove. It's not fine because it was designed with trappings of science (using cool medical technology, publishing its materials and methods, pretending to have a control) but it is not science and its very existence misleads viewers as to the real nature of science. There are viewers who don't know any better who will go home thinking despite the disclaimer that they have seen science done and a claim proven.

In fact, forget science. This is an affront to logic and thought. How this wasn't universally denounced for the sham it is, astounds and saddens me. This is like watching a grown man make mud pies and then eat them.

I'm not making any sense, am I? I'm going to make an apple crisp now.

It will be a homemade apple crisp from butter, flour, sliced almonds, sugar, and apples, because I like homemade food and I actually agree that Top Ramen is bad for you. But this video makes me want to buy a whole case and eat it just to be contrary. Argh!
posted by d. z. wang at 10:27 AM on February 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is a crappy experimental design. You shouldn't compare some specific off-the-shelf food with something you made at home - there are too many things that will be different between the two meals. The idea behind effective experimental control is that your two conditions only differ by one, specific, known factor. The only way you can do that is by making BOTH meals in the lab, and changing the recipe in a specific way.

But, in my experience, the field of medicine is filled with people who don't understand proper research methods, so I'm not surprised.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:30 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Artist and doctors, and artists and scientists, should work together more often."

Fine, but next time leave the doctoring and the scienceing to the doctors and scientists.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:30 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope Tom Six sees this video. A 'mouth 2 anus' pill sounds like it's tailor-made for the next Human Centipede movie.
posted by suckerpunch at 10:37 AM on February 11, 2012


I would really love to challenge these guys to describe a definition for "processed foods" that is both inherently meaningful and demonstrably bad for us.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:41 AM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


She seems like a very nice, intelligent, sweet, pretty person who I absolutely would never invite to a dinner party at my house.
posted by lampshade at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


With a voice like that, it seems a real shame they didn't carry these "experiments" (ha!) on some sort of cake.
posted by howfar at 10:51 AM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Having accidentally used rancid whole wheat flour to make a huge batch of bread rolls, I welcome our fat-preserving chemical overlords.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:53 AM on February 11, 2012


I would really love to challenge these guys to describe a definition for "processed foods" that is both inherently meaningful and demonstrably bad for us.

Everything but raw fruit. Look it up yourself.

I do think there's a general consensus on a definition of "processed food". "demonstrably bad" i don't know...

Well, "Processed foods are to blame for the sharp rise in obesity levels and chronic disease around the globe, according to the World Health Organization."

No comment on the video. the *idea* is neat.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:01 AM on February 11, 2012


You know, there is a opaque covering over internal organs for a reason.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:08 AM on February 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


If they did this with a Taco Bell meal, they could have their camera back within an hour.
posted by maxwelton at 11:35 AM on February 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


S**t Smug People Say.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2012


Tom Six is working on the M2A2M2A2M2A pill.
posted by zippy at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2012


She was so busy talking she missed the tiny scuba gorilla swimming by in the large intestine.
posted by orme at 12:55 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


My uncle, now 90, a retired gastroenterologist, invented a big pill (along with a tech guy) fifty years ago that broadcast radio signals from the G.I. tract. don't know how it worked, of course, but this kind of thing is just another step up in terms of receiving information from inside the body by a huge variety of technological means.
posted by kozad at 2:24 PM on February 11, 2012


This is rank bullcrappery. If for no other reason than the fact that the authors of the study clearly don't know what ramen noodles are. Real ramen noodles are made with strong flour, water and kansui (water with dissolved potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate), not the weak flour, water, salt and egg noodles used in the "control" subject. All of the difference in the digestion of the two different noodles can be attributed to the fact that they weren't the same kind of noodle. I'm guessing that if they had tested top ramen against regular fresh ramen there wouldn't have been much of a difference.
posted by slkinsey at 2:49 PM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like how she used sciencey words like "my associate" and "hospital". Real researchers often use words like those, too!

... of course, they sometimes use data and propose testable hypotheses, but that's quibbling. The important thing is She Wears A Lab Coat!!!
posted by IAmBroom at 3:09 PM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


California.

Nuff' Said.
posted by clarknova at 2:41 AM on February 12, 2012


Unless I am mistaken, our incredible M2A voyage was cut short. I don't think we even got out of the stomache. I'm feeling pretty cheated right now. I want my intestinal roller coaster ride!
posted by TheCoug at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2012


Made with water, which contains hydrogen, the same chemical that caused devastating loss of life in the Hindenburg crash.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 9:21 AM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


[more inside] took on a new meaning in this post.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:28 AM on February 12, 2012


S**t Smug People Say.

Shits Smug People Do.
posted by howfar at 11:30 AM on February 12, 2012


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