A new urine test is being developed by researchers from Imperial College London, Newcastle University, and Aberystwyth University that has the ability to detect how healthy a patient’s diet truly is. The five minute test evaluates biological indicators in an individual’s urine sample that are created by the breakdown of specific foods. It is able to detect the amount of red meat, chicken, fish, fruits, and vegetables a person has eaten, and can even inform physicians of how much sugar, protein, fiber, and fat their patient has consumed.
To develop the test, researchers assigned 19 participants to four different diets, ranging from extremely healthy to extremely unhealthy based on guidelines created by the World Health Organization. The participants ate according to these diets for three days while under observation in a research facility, and provided urine samples every morning, afternoon, and evening to be analyzed by the research team. The data collected allowed them to create specific profiles outlining which metabolites were characteristic of healthy diets and which were consistent of unhealthy ones.
The goal of the test is to compare the metabolite profile of a patient’s urine sample with the established profile consistent with a healthy diet in order to determine how well they’ve been eating. The test has many practical applications in the world of medicine, as a common limitation of nutrition studies is that they rely on self-reporting of daily food intake by participants, which may not be completely accurate.
Professor Gary Frost of Imperial College London addressed this, stating, “We rely solely on people keeping logs of their daily diets – but studies suggest around 60 percent of people misreport what they eat to some extent. This test could be the first independent indicator of the quality of a person’s diet – and what they are really eating.”
The test could be extremely useful for nutritionists and physicians alike, as it gives an empirical representation of the quality of a person’s diet that cannot be influenced by false reporting. The tool would allow dieticians to suggest changes and provide accountability for clients trying to lose weight, as well as allow physicians to track how dietary changes affect patients with diabetes and other issues that can be influenced by dietary changes.