Test predicts individual response to nutrition interventions

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Scientists have completed large-scale tests on a new five-minute urine test that measures the health of a person's diet, and produces an individual's unique urine “fingerprint,” according to new findings published in the journal Nature Food.

Researchers at Imperial College London in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, and Murdoch University, analyzed levels of 46 different metabolites in the urine of 1,848 people in the United States. Metabolites are considered to be an objective indicator of diet quality and are produced as different foods are digested by the body, the researchers said.

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, 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.

In a second study, the researchers 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.

The team now plans to use the diet analysis technology on people at risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers said. The next step is to investigate how a person's urine metabolite fingerprint may link to a person's risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.