Answered By: Gabe Gossett
Last Updated: Mar 15, 2023     Views: 315

There are many different ways someone might examine this question. At the very least, the nutritional value of water would be present if it were a functioning toilet. But that is, perhaps, a more superficial take on the issue than you want to research. We might look into what edible compounds make up the toilet itself, hopefully before fermentation. We could examine how the art world engages with toilets, and by extension feeds our minds. Or we might look into the public health factors that would contribute to toilets improving nutritional uptake. I hope you're sitting down, this might take a while.

Let's consider the composition of the toilet itself, examining the materials used to build the toilet. I think most people would agree that the process of eating the toilet would be difficult. One can only imagine how difficult it would be to chew shards of porcelain. You might get yourself into the Guinness Book of World Records, but it would likely be painful along the way. At the very least, investing in a heavy duty mortar and pestle should be a starting point so you can powder the porcelain. Before you say "Alright toilet powder, get in my tummy!" you might want to search patents to get some more information on the composition of the clay and glaze used on your toilet. That said, chances are the information is incomplete in the dietary sense. Perhaps some toxic heavy metals or undesirable death-causing compounds might be in the mix. You might search for "edible toilet," or some variation thereof. But if you do, be prepared to descend into the strange internet rabbit hole on edible toilet paper. If you are like me, your first reaction will be "Why?" and your second reaction will be, "Well, I guess I'll see what that could possibly be about" and your third and final reaction will be despair at losing that half hour of your life as you reflect on the fact that you were looking into edible toilet paper, which is not what you a were even looking for.

But I digress. 

Let's consider the nutritional value of how toilet-based art feeds our minds. It turns out that toilets have been the medium of choice for a few art projects, mostly in order to ask the question "So, wait, what is art?" Perhaps the most influential of these is Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (1917).A urinal pretending to be art in order to question what we value as art. Duchamp's piece, signed as R. Mutt, has been lost (eaten?!), but has inspired (dare I say, gave intellectual nutritional value?), to a lineage of of toilet-based art ever since. You can read all about it on a very comprehensive page detailing the "Fluxus Movement" by Bob Cromwell. Perhaps most inspiring, in all of it's sparkling splendor is Maurizio Cattelan's America, an 18 carat gold toilet that actually works, and people wait hours in line to use, at the Guggenheim. 

But, again, I digress.

Let us now take a public health look at the nutritional value of toilets. This (hopefully) last take on the issue is perhaps the most valid in terms of going beyond superficial importance. It turns out, according to the World Health Organization, about 2 billion people lack access to toilets or latrines. What does this have to do with the nutritional value of toilets, you aren't wondering? Well, it turns out that lack of access to basic fecal sanitation promotes intestinal diseases and worms, leading to malnutrition. Dean Spears, a professor of Economics, examines this issue in much of their work looking at global access to sanitation and the impacts thereof. Most relieving of the work they have produced in relation to this question is the working paper "The nutritional value of toilets: How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain."

So, there we have it. There are many ways to examine this question. Which pipe you choose to go down is up to you.

Comments (2)

  1. Wonderful.
    by Syd on Oct 12, 2022
  2. thank you for providing an extensive academic answer to a question i didn’t even know i had until i had read it. truly awe-inspiring.
    by Molly on Mar 01, 2023

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