The composition of urine is related to economic status
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown that the diets of the wealthy and people in risk of poverty are correlated with urinary fingerprints of their respective metabolisms. Urine samples from more than 1300 people across five European countries underlie a study that can be used to improve nutrition and predict disease.
The article was updated March 13, 2020, as the headline could be misunderstood and the uncertainties in the study did not appear clear enough from the original version.
If you eat whole grains, vegetables and dark chocolate, you most likely belong to the most economically prosperous segment of society. If, on the other hand, your diet is low in protein, salty, filled with additives and there are longer breaks between your meals, you probably belong to the poorest segment.
For the first time, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science have observed that the diets of the rich and poor leave different fingerprints on metabolism evidenced in urine. This is the result of a comprehensive analysis of 2700 urine samples from 1300 people in five European countries.
"The most striking thing is that across gender, ethnicity and nationality, we were able to discern between those who earn more and those who earn less - from their urine metabolome," says Alessia Trimigno, a Postdoc at the Department of Food Science, and lead author of the study.
A golden insight into human health
Your urine changes promptly, depending on what you eat and your overall health. All body fluids contain thousands of so-called metabolites detectible using advanced analytical technologies which are residues of the body's metabolism. Unlike blood which is slower to respond to changes in the body, urine provides a "real time" status of the body disposables.
Metabolites reveal much about diet, current health and a person’s predisposition to various diseases. Despite the promise, researchers still only know about one percent of the roughly one million different metabolites.
"We know that often metabolites can tell us much more about human health and wellbeing than genes. However, we need more knowledge about how to decode these metabolites. This study marks an important step forward," according to Associate Professor Bekzod Khakimov at the Department of Food Science.
Developing affordable and nutritious food
The study is part of a major European research project, headed by Professor Søren Balling Engelsen from the University of Copenhagen side, that has identified nutritional deficiencies among people living under the risk-of-poverty, so as to develop new, low-cost foods with the right nutritional composition for this group.
Within this context, Danish researchers skilled at extracting useful information from large chemical data sets (multivariate data analysis), have been responsible for analysing urine samples from Finland, the UK, Italy, Serbia and Lithuania. They have done so using a new method, called Signature Mapping (SigMa) (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aca.2020.02.025 ), for metabolomics data processing that they invented and have had the opportunity to test over the course of the project.
CHANCE, an interdisciplinary European project (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/266331), has 17 partners from nine different countries, including ten universities and five food companies.
The article may be accessed at: https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201800216
- Most notably, citric acid and hippuric acid were found in relatively higher concentrations among the wealthy than the poor. Low levels of these two acids in the body are associated with, among other things, a deficiency in protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- In the study, Lithuania was the country where economic differences were most pronounced in urine samples
- Finland and the UK had the most divergent diets.
- 2732 urine samples from 1391 European residents were used in the study
- The definition of rich and poor (risk-of-poverty) is based on EUROSTAT income data
Department of Food Science
Phone: 53 33 24 72
Department of Food Science
Phone +45 35 32 81 84
Michael Skov Jensen
Faculty of SCIENCE
Phone: +45 93 56 58 97