Researchers from the the Imperial College London, Newcastle University, and Aberystwyth University have developed a urine test that can indicate how healthy a person’s diet is, according to a study published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology

Metabolic profiling measures hundreds of metabolites in the urine, which can be affected by food consumption. Study authors proposed that metabolic profiles of urine samples designed under controlled feeding conditions “reflect dietary intake and can be used to model and classify dietary patterns of free-living populations.” To test this hypothesis, they conducted a randomized, controlled crossover trial including healthy volunteers aged 21–65 years with a body mass index (BMI) 20–35kg/m2.  

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Four dietary interventions were developed with a stepwise variance following the WHO healthy eating guidelines to prevent non-communicable diseases: increase fruits, vegetable, whole grains, and dietary fiber; decrease fats, sugars, and salts. For each inpatient period, urine samples were collected each day over morning, afternoon, and evening and overnight time periods. 

The urine samples were analyzed to assess the structure of chemicals within the urine via a proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; diet-discriminatory metabolites were identified. Urinary metabolite models were developed for each diet and then validated to two datasets.

Of the 20 eligible volunteers, 19 completed all four 72-hour study stays and consumed all the food provided. An analysis of the spectroscopy data showed that urinary metabolic profiles of the four diets were distinct. Significant differences in metabolite concentrations were observed between diets with the lowest and highest metabolic risks. The association between urinary metabolic and dietary profiles were further confirmed when applied to the two datasets.

In general, the urinary metabolite models created in a highly controlled environment were able to classify groups of people consuming diets associated with lower or higher non-communicable disease risk based on the multivariate metabolite patterns. “Our metabolic profiling strategy could be used to obtain objective information on adherence to healthy eating programs aimed at combating obesity and common diseases,” concluded study authors. The urine test may be available within two years.

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