Scientists have completed large-scale tests on a new type of five-minute urine test that measures the health of your diet and produces a unique urine ‘fingerprint’.
Scientists at Newcastle University in collaboration with colleagues at Imperial College London, Aberystwyth University and Murdoch University have developed a five-minute test to reveal that the mix of metabolites in urine varies from person to person.
Metabolites are considered to be an objective indicator of diet quality – and are produced as different foods are digested by the body, say the research team, who published their findings in the journal Nature Food.
In another research paper in the same journal, they were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health.
The findings revealed an association between 46 metabolites in urine, and types of foods or nutrients in the diet. For instance, certain metabolites correlated with alcohol intake, while others were linked to intake of citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose and vitamin C. The team also found metabolites in urine associated with dietary intake of red meats, other meats such as chicken, and nutrients such as calcium. Certain metabolites were also linked with health conditions – for instance compounds found in urine such as formate and sodium (an indicator of salt intake) are linked with obesity and high blood pressure.
The team used this technology to develop a five-minute test to reveal that the mix of metabolites in urine varies from person to person.
The team says the technology, which produces an individual’s urine ‘fingerprint’ could help enable people to receive healthy eating advice tailored to their individual biological make-up. This is known as “precision nutrition” and could provide health professionals with more specific information on the quality of a person’s diet.
Professor John Mathers, author of the research and Director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University said: “We have shown how different people metabolise the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalised dietary advice to improve public health.”
Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez, author of the research also from Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction explained: “Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways – and can help health professionals such as dieticians provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients.
Dr Garcia-Perez added that the team now plan to use the diet analysis technology on people at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers say this urine ‘fingerprint’ can be used to develop an individual’s personal score – called the Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS.
Same diet, different outcome
In their experiments, the team asked 19 people to follow four different diets – ranging from very healthy (following 100 per cent of World Health Organisation recommendations for a balanced diet), to unhealthy (following 25 per cent WHO diet recommendations).
The team found that people who strictly followed the same diet had varied DMS scores.
The team’s work also revealed that the higher a person’s DMS score, the healthier their diet. A higher DMS score was also found to be associated with lower blood sugar, and a higher amount of energy excreted from the body in urine.
The team found the difference between high energy urine (i.e. high DMS score) and low energy urine (low DMS score) was equivalent to someone with a high DMS score losing an extra 4 calories a day, or 1,500 calories a year. The team calculate this could translate to a difference of 215g of body fat per year.
The next step is to investigate how a person’s urine metabolite fingerprint may link to a person’s risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, Professor Gary Frost, co-author of the research and Chair in Nutrition and Dietetics at Imperial said: “These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should re-write food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”
The work was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council and Health Data Research UK.