Somewhat Funny Flatulent Research

A recent study (CV Almario et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 1308-10) was titled: “Old Farts -Fact or Fiction?  Results from a Population-Based Survey of 16,000 Americans Examining the Association Between Age and Flatus.” I was surprised that this was not in an April Fools edition, though I had to read the article because of the intriguing title. The authors premise was to determine if the elderly pass more flatus.

Key findings:

  • Based on self-reporting using a mobile app (MyGiHealth), the authors found that individuals ≥65 years passed flatus less often than the younger age groups. Among those reporting flatulence every 1-2 hours, only 22.6% of those ≥65 years had this frequency; this compared to at least 33% in all other age groups.
  • Most commonly, individuals in all age groups reported passing flatus about every 3-4 hours (36-41%); the next most common frequency was about every 1-2 hours (23-38%) across all age groups. The other frequent category was passing flatus once or twice a day which was reported between 24-29% across all age groups.

The authors indicate that limitations of their study include “social desirability bias” and “information bias.”  In addition, while the entire cohort was >16,000, there were only 296 who were ≥65 years of age.

While I’m not an expert in this field, other limitations could include worsened ability to detect/record flatus with age and/or worsened memory about frequency of passing flatus.

My take: This study shows that almost any study could find a home in some medical journals. In my view, self-reported frequency of passing flatus may not be accurate (the dog did it!).

Pitt Street Bridge, Charleston, SC

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