LONDON – Diet is a key factor contributing to our health and wellness. Yet, it can be difficult to determine exactly what we should be eating and how much. A new type of urine test designed by researchers at Imperial College London may help people figure out which diet is best specifically for their body.
The test takes only five minutes and measures a variety of metabolites present in urine. These metabolites can reveal important information about our diet, including consumption of citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, vitamin C, red meats, and chicken. Importantly, the test also provides information related to health conditions. For example, the test measures salt intake, which is linked to obesity and high blood pressure.
“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,” explains researcher Joram Posma in a statement. “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.”
Urine ‘fingerprint’ helps tailor diet
Researchers say the technology can provide an individual urine “fingerprint” which varies from person to person. This information can then be used by dieticians to tailor dietary recommendations. The fingerprint helps to create a personal score, known as a Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS – for each individual.
In their experiments, the authors instructed a group of 19 people to adhere to one of four diets which ranged from very unhealthy to very healthy. They then calculated DMS scores for each individual. While higher DMS scores correspond with healthier diets and lower DMS scores signal not-so-healthy ones, researchers report variations in scores among people who strictly followed the same diet. These findings suggest that people metabolize the same food in different ways, and that these differences affect DMS scores.
“We show here 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,” co-author John Mathers explains.
The study is published in Nature Food.