Is Your Diet Right For You? A Urine Test Can Tell

eating fruits and veggies from bento box

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Key Takeaways

  • Many healthcare providers rely on self-reported data when evaluating diets, which can be inaccurate and subjective.
  • A "perfect" diet for one person may not be the best choice for another.
  • A test can evaluate metabolites found in a person’s urine to determine which foods they should eat or avoid.

 A five-minute urine test may give insight into the quality of your diet and whether your body is meeting its nutritional requirements, according to two studies published in the journal Nature Food.

The test offers a unique nutritional assessment solely based on the presence and levels of certain digestive byproducts found in a urine sample. In order to identify which of these byproducts—called metabolites—were associated with certain foods, researchers at the Imperial College of London analyzed urine samples from 1,848 people. Then, they used this information to create a test to show how metabolites vary from person to person, even when those people follow the same diet.

Because poor diet is a major contributor to chronic disease, accurate information about a person’s eating habits and nutritional profile is key for healthcare providers to make the best dietary recommendations.

How Is Diet Quality Usually Measured?

Traditionally, when evaluating a person’s diet quality, nutritionists and healthcare professionals use assessments based on self-reported information. But when patients are tasked with reporting their own eating habits, it can be subjective, inaccurate, or burdensome to keep track of.

"These factors not only present significant limitations when it comes to scientific research, but also when it comes to customizing nutrition recommendations for individuals," Laura Yautz, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and owner of Being Nutritious, tells Verywell. "Without an accurate picture of a person’s true habits, it’s difficult to make meaningful dietary tweaks that lead to measurable progress."

How Does the Urine Test Work?

The urine test works by analyzing 46 specific metabolites produced after people consume food. Researchers found certain metabolites are associated with certain foods; for example, high levels of proline betaine are linked to citrus foods.

By measuring the exact metabolites your body produces, researchers can determine what you're eating and how much—or how little—nutrition you're getting from it.

“Different people use nutrients differently, based on digestion, as well as genetic differences and mutations,” Melissa Groves Azzaro, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS, tells Verywell. “So, you could be eating the most 'perfect' diet possible, and still fall short on getting the nutrients you need.” 

The urine test allows for both an exact and individualized approach to nutrition analysis, showing how people process food in different ways.

"A test like this can reveal if a person may need more or less of certain nutrients than the [federal] recommendations," Yantz says.

The test is not publicly available at this time. Next, researchers plan to use the test to investigate how metabolites in a person's urine might predict the risk of health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

What This Means For You

Even if it were widely available, this urine test would probably not help you unless you have a health professional interpreting results. But it's an important indicator that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. Because bodies break down food in different ways, the more tailored your diet plan is to you, the better.




4 Sources
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  1. Garcia-Perez I, Posma JM, Chambers ES, et al. Dietary metabotype modelling predicts individual responses to dietary interventionsNat Food. 2020;1:355–364. doi:10.1038/s43016-020-0092-z

  2. Posma JM, Garcia-Perez I, Frost G, et al. Nutriome–metabolome relationships provide insights into dietary intake and metabolism. Nat Food. 2020 June. doi:10.1038/s43016-020-0093-y

  3. Prowse R, Richmond S, Carsley S, Manson H, Moloughney B. Strengthening public health nutrition: findings from a situational assessment to inform system-wide capacity building in Ontario, Canada. Public Health Nutr. 2020;1-11. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020001433

  4. Alshurafa N, Wen A, Zhu F, Ghaffari R, Hester J, Delp E, Rogers J, Spring B. Counting bites with bits: Expert workshop addressing calorie and macronutrient intake monitoring. J Med Internet Res. 2019 Dec 4;21(12):e14904. doi:10.2196/14904