A recent study published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health examined what happens when doctors eat LEGO bricks. Yes, you read that correctly. Six health care professionals working in paediatric hospital care consumed one Minifigure head each. Subsequently, they let it pass through their digestive system. The team hoped to determine the length of time that a Minifigure head will remain inside the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, they sought to calm the nerves of parents with young children by showing that eating a Minifigure head is not the end of the world. At least, it is not the end of the world for a toddler. The experiment decapitated six Minifigures, and one head is still missing.
This experiment required doctors to closely examine their fecal matter for several days. To establish a baseline, they kept a poo journal starting three days before eating a Minifigure head. The journaling continued until the ingested Minifigure head exited the digestive tract. They examined their stool using the Bristol Stool Chart. This chart gives a number classification to different consistencies of excrement. Consequently, doctors can diagnose certain digestive problems.
Did you know there is a chart for classifying poo?
Using the Bristol Stool Chart, participants classified their fecal matter. Researchers used this information to calculate a Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score. Essentially, they added up the Bristol scores and divided the sum by the number of observation days. Each participant recorded a SHAT score before and after eating a Minifigure head. If a SHAT score is high, it indicates that you have loose bowl movements and your digestive system is upset.
After eating a Minifigure head, each participant needed to search through their stool. Searching continued after every bathroom visit until the Minifigure head surfaced. This gave the Found and Retrieved Time, or FART score. Interestingly, one health care professional searched through his excrement for two weeks before giving up. He never found the Minifigure head.
SHAT and FART scores were used in this study.
Successful participants had an average FART score of 1.71 days. Normally, the Minifigure head passed through the body in two bowl movements. The longest FART score was 3 days. Additionally, female participants appeared to pass LEGO® pieces faster than men. However, the sample size was too small to be conclusive on that point. Finally, the SHART score did not vary significantly before and after ingestion. This suggests that Minifigure heads do not cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
This study examined the effect of eating a smooth LEGO® piece on the digestive system of adults. However, researchers believe the effects on a child’s system are not significantly different. If anything, the Minifigure head would pass faster. However, the authors do note that a more angular LEGO® brick has the potential to act differently. On a positive note, they hypothesize that any piece small enough to swallow is also small enough to excrete.
One Minifigure head was never found…
Sadly, this experiment harmed six Minifigures. In fact, one was ultimately sacrificed for the betterment of mankind. However, once again LEGO® bricks have advanced scientific research. Now, we can all rest assured that if a toddler eats a Minifigure head, they will not die. There you have it, doctors eat LEGO bricks so the rest of us do not have to.
Until next time,
p.s. For more exciting ways in which LEGO® bricks have advanced science, click here.
References and further reading:
Leonard, J. “What are the different types of poop?” Medical News Today, 2 January 2020, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320938. Accessed: 29 August 2020.
Tagg, A., Roland, D., Leo, G. et al. “Everything is awesome: don’t forget the LEGO.” Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, vol. 55, 2019, pp: 921-923.
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