The last thing you ate…

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Analysing the content of a person’s stomach and/or faeces can provide important clues for a criminal investigation. The level of breakdown of digestible components and their position in the digestive tract can give a relative time indication concerning how long prior to death the last meal was ingested.

A light meal will only take a couple of hours to leave the stomach, while a heavy meal (high lipid/protein content, ) can be present for as long as six hours. Foods like celery, onion, potato, corn and tomato skins take longer than for example meat to leave the stomach.

There are a number of medical conditions like diabetes which affect the speed by which the content leaves the stomach and moves to the digestive tract. The speed by which the stomach empties will also be affected by the mental and physical state of the victim prior to death. Research has shown that especially severe head injuries substantially slow down emptying of the stomach.

Off-course the type of food can also give an indication of the relative time of death (e.g. breakfast food only – so died before lunch?) or even better still help identify the restaurant…

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