RESEARCHERS have developed a test that uses urine samples that indicate what food a person has been eating, allowing them to monitor how healthy their diet is.
The test will be used to measure biological markers in urine that are created by the breakdown of various foods while also indicating a person’s intake of fat, sugar, fibre, and protein. This could allow researchers to effectively monitor a patient’s diet without having to rely on self-reports. “A major weakness in all nutrition and diet studies is that we have no true measure of what people eat,” one of the researchers, Prof Gary Frost, Imperial College London, London, UK, explained. “We rely solely on people keeping logs of their daily diets – but studies suggest around 60% of people misreport what they eat to some extent. This test could be the first independent indication of the quality of a person’s diet – and what they are really eating.”
Prof Frost and his team recruited 19 volunteers for their study and had them follow four different diets that ranged from very unhealthy to very healthy. The volunteers followed the diets for 3 days and provided urine samples in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The diets were formulated according to World Health Organization (WHO) dietary guidelines that advise the best foods to eat in order to prevent conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The researchers then assessed these samples to create metabolic profiles that would indicate what a healthy and unhealthy diet looked like according to particular compounds produced by the food that was eaten. After establishing what a healthy diet profile looked like, the team could then use it as a comparison to test the diet profiles of other individuals and determine whether they are eating healthy. “For the first time, this research offers an objective way of assessing the overall healthiness of people’s diets without all the hassles, biases, and errors of recording what they have eaten,” explained Prof John Mathers, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK, who was also involved in the study.
The team are now looking to further develop the 5-minute test by testing it on larger numbers of people and by assessing its accuracy outside of a research setting. “This will eventually provide a tool for personalised dietary monitoring to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. We are not at the stage yet where the test can tell us a person ate 15 chips yesterday and 2 sausages, but it is on the way,” said Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez, Imperial College London, who was also involved in the study.
Jack Redden, Reporter