Scientists in the UK have developed a way to tell what a person eats – and subsequently determine how healthy the meals are – with a simple urine test.
The team is hopeful that this test can be used to improve nutritional plans or help in weight loss. The test is expected to be available for the public within two years, the BBC reports. It was developed in a partnership between Imperial College London, Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University.
Since people are generally bad at keeping records of their own diets, this system is an efficient way to check. The urine samples are collected and analyzed to see what chemicals are floating in it. This is completed via a technique called a proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
The body leaves traces of what is consumed, with specific signatures for fish, fruit, vegetables and kinds of meat. These signify the contents of both recent and long-term dietary habits.
Dr. Isabel Garcia-Perez, one of the researchers from Imperial College London, said,
This will eventually provide a tool for personalized dietary monitoring to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
She added, “We’re not at the stage yet where the test can tell us a person ate 15 chips yesterday and two sausages, but it’s on the way.”
According to trials, about 60% of people either under or over report what their diets are like. Professor Gary Frost, also from Imperial, suggests that this urine test could be the first independent test to do a more accurate reading.
Frost said, “You can really tell whether someone’s been following a healthy diet or not. The bigger you are the more likely you are to under-report what you eat. People find it difficult to open up to what types of foods they eat at home, which is a major problem.”
He further stated that the test could be used to fight obesity, or trim down on risks for diseases like type 2 diabetes. It could also build a profile of a country’s eating habits, that could then be used to form better health and nutrition campaigns.
The process for coming up with the test was published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.