Fart proudly, proclaimed Benjamin Franklin in 1781, and who am I to argue. It is a natural bodily function and all you need are intestines and an anus – so, yes, even the fairer sex break wind. The main carbohydrate responsible for flatulence is raffinose, a sugar which is commonly found in vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli and which our guts find hard to digest.
When I started thinking about farts, I soon realised there was so much I didn’t know about the subject. After all, if the principal constituents of a fart are nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen and methane – the smelly component is the 1% of hydrogen sulphide – gasses all, and gasses have mass, what is the volume of an average fart and has anybody bothered to find out? Well, after some diligent research in the nether regions of the internet I struck gold and I think the results are worth repeating.
I found reference to an article in the ever popular journal, Gut, which described the experiments of gastroenterologists from the Human Gastrointestinal Physiology and Nutrition department of Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire hospital in 1991. They took ten volunteers and fed them with 200 grams of baked beans in addition to their normal diet. The volunteers’ flatulence was collected via rectal catheters and to ensure that there was an air-tight seal between the catheter they were required to sit in a bath of water whilst passing wind.
Methodology having been established we pass on to results. Our researchers found that the amount of gas produced over a 24 hour period varied widely, between 476 to 1491 millilitres, with a median result of 705. There was no variation between the sexes in the amount passed and farting tended to be more robust after eating. A single fart, regardless of sex, body size or time of day, has a volume of between 33 and 125 millilitres, with a median of 90. Incidentally, although not part of this experiment, a fart has been recorded as reaching a speed of ten feet per second. The study found that those on a low-fibre diet reduced most of the fermentation gases which would have been expelled and their average flatulence volume was a paltry 200 millilitres.
For the enquiring mind, this raises a further question which the Sheffield researchers did not address – do you lose weight after a fart? I regret to say, I have failed to find a definitive answer to that question. There was a post on Facebook, a most unreliable source of information in my experience, suggesting that you burn 67 calories per fart. For those who think I may have uncovered the perfect form of weight loss, the website Fat Loss School is ready to pour a bucket of cold water over the idea. They claim that when you fart, the muscles relax and the pressure in your bowels does all the work in expelling the gas. The only way you would achieve a measurable figure in the calories burned whilst farting would be by straining yourself to the limit.
So now we know!