Scientists have developed a urine test that can measure the health of a person’s diet.
The five-minute test measures biological markers in urine created by the breakdown of foods such as red meat, chicken, fish and fruit and vegetables.The work has been completed by researchers at Aberystwyth University, Imperial College London, and Newcastle University.
It also helps show how much fat, sugar, fibre and protein a person has eaten.
Although the work is at an early stage, it is hoped the test will be able to track patients’ diets and could even be used in weight loss programmes to monitor food intake.
Professor John Draper from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University, and co-author on this study, is working on developing the test for use in the home.
Professor Draper said: “The future challenge is to apply the technology developed in this laboratory study in a community setting and objectively monitor diet in the home. The teams in Aberystwyth and Newcastle have been doing just this and the results are looking very promising.”
In the study, published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, the researchers asked 19 volunteers to follow four different diets, ranging from very healthy to very unhealthy.
These were formulated using World Health Organisation dietary guidelines, which advise on the best diets to prevent conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The volunteers strictly followed the diets for three days in a London research facility, throughout which the scientists collected urine samples in the morning, afternoon and evening.
The research team then checked for hundreds of compounds, called metabolites, produced when certain foods are broken down in the body.
These included compounds that indicate red meat, chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as giving a picture of the amount of protein, fat, fibre and sugar eaten.
They also included compounds that point to specific foods such as citrus fruits, grapes and green leafy vegetables.
From that information they were able to develop a urine metabolite profile that indicated a healthy, balanced diet with a good intake of fruit and vegetables.
The idea is this ‘healthy diet’ profile could be compared to the diet profile from an individual’s urine, to provide an instant indicator of whether they are eating healthily.
The team now hope to refine the technology by testing it on larger numbers of people. They also need to further assess the accuracy of the test on an average person’s diet, outside of a research setting.
Researchers from Aberystwyth University were involved in coming up with it