Michel Lotito (b. 1950 - d. 2007), aka 'Monsieur Mangetout' (Mr Eat All), was a French performer who truly earned his nickname.
Metal, rubber, glass; you name it, he ate it. For his efforts, he was awarded the record for the world's strangest diet, although we acknowledge that 'strangeness' is neither objective nor measurable, thus the record title has now been rested.
Lotito is perhaps best known as the man who ate an entire airplane, however, he also enjoyed feasting on bicycles, razor blades and other seemingly inedible objects.
He prepared each item for consumption by cutting it up with an electric power saw to create bite-sized chunks. Instead of chewing the pieces, he swallowed them like a pill – something that would prove fatal to most people.
To help wash it all down, Lotito drank mineral oil and large quantities of water, which acted as lubricant. Fortunately, he didn’t experience any significant problems excreting his ‘food’.
"I would always ask for a doctor’s assistance. They would give me all sorts of advice, such as to eat artichokes or paraffin oils together with metal to make things easier, but I soon realized that I was better off simply drinking several litres of water." – Michel Lotito
When we interviewed Lotito for Guinness World Records 2006, he revealed that he started to develop a tolerance for pain at the age of eight, when he began practising sophrology, a combination of self-hypnosis and other relaxation techniques that can assist pain control.
Several years later, at the age of 16, Lotito discovered his ability to consume strange objects, which he soon developed a taste for.
"I accidentally broke a glass while drinking, and I had a piece in my mouth. I knew other people had eaten glass in the past and decided that I could do it as well. Then I moved on to razor blades, plates and small pieces of metal such as nuts and bolts." – Michel Lotito
What started as a simple party trick soon turned into a lucrative career.
"People started to ask me if I wanted to eat something bigger and so I said, 'OK, I think I can eat a bicycle.' It was a great success – they called me for TV shows in South America and Canada."
In addition to eating unusual objects, his high pain threshold meant that Lotito also allowed audiences to light matches under his fingernails and throw darts into his back. He was paid nearly $1,000 per day, as reported by The Madison Courier in 1980.
Lotito’s first appearance in our annals came in 1979, where he was recognized for consuming a bicycle in record time (15 days between 17 March – 2 April 1977).
A year later, he broke his own record, taking 12 days to eat over 15 lb (6.8 kg) of bicycle. As side dishes, he also ate 100 razor blades, two plates and a glass, as reported by The Leader-Post.
During the fair where this took place, Lotito also "bent coins with his teeth" and "submitted to having his arm squeezed in a gigantic pair of pliers held by eight men." He was paid $5,000 by the organizers (around $24,500 adjusted for inflation in 2022).
Lotito’s bicycle-eating achievement was listed in our 1979 book alongside other speed-eating records, or gluttony records as they were called at the time.
Despite not publishing potentially dangerous records, such as those involving the "consumption of live ants, chewing gum or raw eggs with shells", an exception was made for the eating of a bicycle because it was "unlikely to attract competition."
Lotito famously went on to eat a small plane next, taking two years in total to do so. Piece by piece, Lotito ate an entire Cessna 150 airplane between 1978-80.
A few years on, in Guinness Book of Records 1984, Lotito was noted to have consumed a supermarket trolley and seven TV sets, in addition to the bicycles and "low-calorie Cessna" he had previously been recognized for.
By 1999, Lotito had eaten 18 bicycles. Furthermore, he had now consumed 15 supermarket trolleys, six chandeliers, two beds, a pair of skis, a computer and a coffin (including the handles).
It is estimated that Lotito ate over nine tons of metal during his lifetime, including the commemorative Guinness World Records brass plaque that we awarded to him.
The anatomy of Monsieur Mangetout
Lotito’s unusual appetite was caused by pica – the eating or craving of things that are not food – which is considered to be a psychological disorder, rather than a biological one.
However, according to Lotito, his biological makeup definitely played a part in his choice to munch on metal.
"My teeth are incredibly strong – their strength has been measured at eight tonnes per centimetre squared. But I also secrete strong juices that cause razor blades to melt in my mouth; my gastric juices are so powerful that, during an endoscopy, doctors observed juices attacking objects with a corrosive foam that ate the metal."
Lotito’s ability to swallow such objects without causing severe internal injuries was supposedly due to his thick stomach and intestinal lining.
Despite his iron constitution, soft foods such as bananas and hard-boiled eggs made him feel sick, causing heartburn and indigestion.
Although gastroenterologists X-rayed Lotito’s stomach and described his ability to consume 900 g (2 lb) of metal per day as unique, doubts have been cast over whether his body was actually that different to an ordinary person’s.
While examining Lotito on camera for the TV show Wild and Weird, his life-long doctor, Dr Morzol, described Lotito's diet as "more a mental problem."
"We’ve never found a valid medical explanation – biopsies and blood tests have shown that his organism is just like anybody else’s."
After having consumed glass and metal for almost thirty years, Lotito’s body was "beginning to wear out," according to Dr Morzol.
"Aggressing his stomach and intestines like this inevitably raises the question of survival, but we don’t have an answer. He’s a prototype; we don’t know what will happen."
Sadly, Michel Lotito passed away due to natural causes soon after, on 25 June 2007, aged 57. He is buried at Saint Roch Cemetery, in his hometown of Grenoble.
It remains unknown how big of a role, if any, his diet played in his death.
Over 15 years after his passing, the story of Monsieur Mangetout continues to serve as both a fascinating and cautionary tale for new generations. As a performer, entertainer and record breaker, he will forever be remembered as truly one of a kind.