Scientists have come up with a new test to see if your diet is right for you — and it takes just five minutes.
A team of researchers developed the new urine test which measures the health of a person’s diet.
It can look at a person’s nutrition by measuring biological markers in urine created by the breakdown of foods such as red meat, chicken, fish, and fruit and vegetables.
It also gives an indication of how much fat, sugar, fibre and protein a person has eaten.
Researchers first analysed the levels of 46 different metabolites in the urine of 1848 people in the US.
Metabolites are considered to be an objective indicator of diet quality and are produced as different foods are digested by the body, according to the research team from Imperial College London, Northwestern University, University of Illinois and Murdoch University.
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The findings, published in the journal Nature Food, discovered an association between the 46 metabolites in urine, types of foods or nutrients in the diet.
For example, the team found that metabolites in urine were associated with dietary intake of red meats, other meats such as chicken, and nutrients such as calcium, according to News Medical.
“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,” research author Dr Joram Posma, from Imperial College’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, said.
“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.”
Professor Gary Frost, senior author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College, said studies suggest 60 per cent 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,” he said.
The same Imperial College team, in collaboration with several other universities in England, used the technology to develop a five-minute test to reveal that the mix of metabolites in urine varies from person to person.
According to the team, the new technology, which produces an individual’s urine “fingerprint”, could give people healthy eating advice tailored to their individual body.
It could even be used in weight-loss programs to monitor food intake. But for now the team plans to use the technology on people at risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways, and can help health professionals such as dietitians provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients,” Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez, co-author of the research from Imperial College’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, said.
In their experiments, the team asked 19 volunteers to follow four different diets – ranging from very healthy to unhealthy – for three days.
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 findings revealed that those who had a higher Dietary Metabotype Score (DMS) had a healthier diet. It also discovered an association with lower blood sugar and a higher amount of energy excreted from the body in urine.
The team found the difference between high energy urine (high DMS score) and low energy urine (low DMS score) was equivalent to someone with a high DMS score losing an extra four calories a day, or 1500 calories a year, Medical News reported.
The scientists said this translates to a difference of 215g of body fat per year.
“These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level,” Professor Frost said.
He said the research questions whether there is a need to rewrite food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.