Would you? Could you? A bus? It sounds like a dumb question, but the way we answer it can actually tell us a whole lot about our bodies and the biology that drives digestion. And, believe it or not, a French man who goes by the name of Mr Eat Everything did actually eat a computer, a pair of skis, a chandelier, and an aeroplane without dying, so yes, this is a scientific possibility. The latest episode of AsapSCIENCE above explains how.
First up, you need to know how our bodies digest what we put inside them. Everything we eat must be broken down to a molecular level, and ideally converted to an energy source for the body to use. Anything that doesn't pass the grade exits the body as poop.
Enzymes are crucial for this process to work, because they're the guys that actually break down your food. And they're very specific about the kinds of molecules they work with. For example, the enzyme amylase in your saliva breaks down carbohydrates to a type of sugar called maltose, which in turn get broken down by another enzyme called maltase, this time in the small intestine.
Maltase breaks down maltose into glucose, and congratulations, you have a very efficient energy source all ready to go.
Problems occur when our bodies don't produce the right enzymes to break down what we're eating. People who are lactose intolerant don't produce enough of the enzyme lactase, and this can lead to all sorts of digestive problems if you decide to risk having a milkshake.
The same goes for eating a bus - we (understandably) don't have the enzymes to chemically break down things like glass, metal, plastic, and outdated carpet. So how did Michel Lotito aka Mr Eat Everything consume an aeroplane and live to tell the tale?
Well, he did it gradually enough to give his body a chance to cope with all the non-digestible parts (but not so gradual that everyone lost interest in the stunt). As AsapSCIENCE explains, he broke the plane and other items down into very small pieces, and mixed them up with actual food. He reportedly ate around 1 kg of non-food items every day - washed down with mineral oil and water so they didn't get stuck.
So what's the point of eating a bus or an aeroplane anyway?
Beyond being a ridiculous stunt, the desire to consume non-food items is actually a symptom of a rare disorder called pica that compels people to eat non-nutritive things, such as paper, clay, drywall, metal, chalk, soil, glass, or sand. Usually, it would be very dangerous for a person with pica to follow through on these desires, but Mr Eat Everything not only lived to tell the tale, he appeared to suffer no adverse health effects.
What's his secret? Watch the latest episode of AsapSCIENCE above to find out.