Scientists in the UK have developed a simple urine test that reveals how healthy or unhealthy a person is.
The study published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London, Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University who are optimistic that their work will eventually help track patients’ diets as well as food intake who have enrolled in weight loss programmes.
Researchers asked 19 volunteers to follow four different diets, ranging from very healthy to very unhealthy. The volunteers strictly followed these diets for three days while in a London research facility, throughout which the scientists collected urine samples in the morning, afternoon and evening. The research team then assessed the urine for hundreds of compounds, called metabolites, produced when certain foods are broken down in the body.
These included compounds that indicate red meat, chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as giving a picture of the amount of protein, fat, fibre and sugar eaten. They also included compounds that point to specific foods such as citrus fruits, grapes and green leafy vegetables. Using this information, researchers were able to develop a urine metabolite profile that indicated a healthy, balanced diet with a good intake of fruit and vegetables.
The idea is this ‘healthy diet’ profile could be compared to the diet profile from an individual’s urine, to provide an instant indicator of whether they are eating healthily.
The scientists then tested the accuracy of the test on data from a previous study. This included 225 UK volunteers as well as 66 people from Denmark. All of the volunteers had provided urine samples, and kept information on their daily diets. Analysis of these urine samples enabled the researchers in the current study to accurately predict the diet of the 291 volunteers.
Professor John Mathers, co-author from the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, said: “For the first time, this research offers an objective way of assessing the overall healthiness of people’s diets without all the hassles, biases and errors of recording what they’ve eaten.”
The team now hope to refine the technology by testing it on larger numbers of people. They also need to further assess the accuracy of the test on an average person’s diet, outside of a research setting.