Urine signatures indicate quality of individuals’ diet and suitability to body type


Scientists have completed large-scale tests on a new type of five-minute urine test that measures the health of a person’s diet.

The test also produces an individual’s unique urine ‘fingerprint’.

Scientists at Imperial College London in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern University, University of Illinois, and Murdoch University, analysed levels of 46 different so-called metabolites in the urine of 1,848 people in the U.S.

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.

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.

Professor Paul Elliott, study co-author and BRC Informatics & Biobanking Theme Lead, said: “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. Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

In a second study, also published in Nature Food by the same Imperial team, in collaboration with Newcastle University, Aberystwyth University, and Murdoch University and funded by the NIHR, the Medical Research Council and Health Data Research UK, 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 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 Gary Frost, co-author of the research and BRC Gut Health Theme Lead, 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.”

This study is an excellent example of not only international collaborative effort, but also NIHR Imperial BRC cross-theme collaboration.

Read the full story by Kate Wighton here.  © Imperial College London