Fibre, caffeine, drugs: a study of wastewater from across Australia finds key differences in how rich and poor communities consume.
The samples, collected from wastewater treatment plants across the country, frozen and mailed to researchers at the university, have been described as a treasure trove of insight into the dietary and drug habits of different communities. And the key to getting them all collected? “Asking very nicely,” says research fellow Jake O’Brien.
O’Brien and PHD candidate Phil Choi took those samples, collected during Australia’s last national census in 2016, and, in the first peer-reviewed study of its kind, analysed the wastewater of communities around Australia to measure different diet and lifestyle habits.
They found that in higher socioeconomic areas, consumption of fibre, citrus and caffeine was greater. In lower socioeconomic areas, prescription drugs were in significant use. In short, the researchers found, the richer the community, the more healthy its diet. And all this information came encoded in that community’s human waste.The richer the community, the more healthy its diet. And all this information came encoded in that community’s human waste