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Urine test will help identify the best diet for each individual

In a new study led by Imperial College London, scientists have developed a five-minute urine test that measures the health of a person’s diet. The technology can be used to identify the best possible diet for an individual based on his or her unique genetic makeup. 

According to the researchers, the test produces an individual’s urine “fingerprint” that includes specific details on diet quality. 

Study co-author Dr. Joram Posma is a researcher in Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction.

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate,” said Dr. Posma.”For instance, asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat.” 

“This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet, and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological make-up.”

Prior to developing the new testing system, the experts analyzed levels of 46 different metabolites in the urine of 1,848 people in the United States. Metabolites are considered to be an objective indicator of diet quality – and are produced as different foods are digested by the body, explained the researchers.

The analysis revealed an association between the metabolites in urine and specific types of foods or nutrients in the diet. Some metabolites correlated with alcohol intake, for example, while others were linked to fructose, glucose and vitamin C. The dietary intake of red meats, chicken, and nutrients such as calcium were also related to certain metabolites. 

Furthermore, some health conditions can be identified through compounds found in urine. Formate and sodium are linked with obesity and high blood pressure.

“Through careful measurement of people’s diets and collection of their urine excreted over two 24-hour periods we were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health,” said study co-author Professor Paul Elliott. “Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

In a second study, the team used their findings to design a five-minute test. The results showed that the mix of metabolites in urine varies from person to person, even when they have the exact same diet.

“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,” said study co-author Dr. Isabel Garcia-Perez. She noted that the team now plans to use the diet analysis technology on people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways,” explained Professor John Mathers of Newcastle University. “This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Food.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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