Urine Test Reveals Quality of Your Diet – and Whether It’s Best for Your Body

Kate Wighton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Scientists have completed large-scale tests on a new type of five-minute urine test that measures the health of a person’s diet.

The test also produces an individual’s unique urine ‘fingerprint’.

Scientists at Imperial College London in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern University, University of Illinois, and Murdoch University, analysed levels of 46 different so-called metabolites in the urine of 1,848 people in the U.S.

Metabolites are considered to be an objective indicator of diet quality – and are produced as different foods are digested by the body, say the research team, who published their findings in the journal Nature Food.

Dr Joram Posma, author of the research from Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction said: “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. 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.”

Tracking alcohol and meat intake

The findings revealed an association between 46 metabolites in urine, and types of foods or nutrients in the diet. For instance, certain metabolites correlated with alcohol intake, while others were linked to intake of citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose and vitamin C.

The team also found metabolites in urine associated with dietary intake of red meats, other meats such as chicken, and nutrients such as calcium. Certain metabolites were also linked with health conditions – for instance compounds found in urine such as formate and sodium (an indicator of salt intake) are linked with obesity and high blood pressure.

Professor Paul Elliott, study co-author and Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at Imperial said: “Through careful measurement of people’s diets and collection of their urine excreted over two 24-hour periods we were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health. Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

Precision nutrition

In a second study also published in Nature Food by the same Imperial team, in collaboration with Newcastle University, Aberystwyth University, and Murdoch University and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council and Health Data Research UK, the team used this technology to develop a five-minute test to reveal that the mix of metabolites in urine varies from person to person.

The team says the technology, which produces an individual’s urine ‘fingerprint’, could enable people to receive healthy eating advice tailored to their individual biological make-up. This is known as “precision nutrition”, and could provide health professionals with more specific information on the quality of a person’s diet.

Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez, author of the research also from Imperial’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction explained: “Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways – and can help health professionals such as dieticians provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients.”

Dr Garcia-Perez added that the team now plan to use the diet analysis technology on people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers say this urine ‘fingerprint’ can be used to develop an individual’s personal score – called the Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS.

Difference in body fat

In their experiments, the team asked 19 people to follow four different diets – ranging from very healthy (following 100 per cent of World Health Organisation recommendations for a balanced diet), to unhealthy (following 25 per cent WHO diet recommendations).

The team found that people who strictly followed the same diet had varied DMS scores.

The team’s work also revealed that the higher a person’s DMS score, the healthier their diet. A higher DMS score was also found to be associated 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 (i.e. high DMS score) and low energy urine (low DMS score) was equivalent to someone with a high DMS score losing an extra 4 calories a day, or 1,500 calories a year. The team calculate this could translate to a difference of 215g of body fat per year.

The next step is to investigate how a person’s urine metabolite fingerprint may link to a person’s risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Re-write food tables

Professor Gary Frost, co-author of the research and Chair in Nutrition and Dietetics at Imperial said: “These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should re-write food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”

Professor John Mathers, co-author of research and Director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University said: “We show here how different people metabolise the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalised dietary advice to improve public health.”

Source: Imperial College London

Japanese Company Launched High-nutrition Bread in the U.S.

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bread seems to be the unofficial food of quarantine. No wonder — it’s comforting, it’s affordable, and it’s a soothing home project to tackle, if you’re into that sort of thing.

But much as we love bread, we know that eating it all day, every day is probably not the healthiest decision in the world. A Japanese startup called Base Food is bringing a more nutritionally appealing bread offering to the U.S.

Founded in 2016, Base Food uses nutrient-dense ingredients like whole grain flour, seaweed, and flaxseed to develop healthier versions of staple foods. Starting today, the company’s second product, Base Bread, will be available direct-to-consumer in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada and Colorado.

It will come in just one big 72-gram roll, which will cost $3.33 each or $2.99 each if you sign up for a monthly subscription. The bread will come frozen, which is why the company is only able to ship within a 2-day radius of their Reno, Nevada manufacturing facility. Frozen food typically equates to high shipping costs, but when I spoke to Base Food’s COO Michael Rosenzweig last week said they have yet to finalize their fees.

Base Food already sells two products — Base Noodles and Base Bread — in its native Japan, and the noodles are already available in the same seven U.S. states which can purchase the bread. Down the road, Rosenzweig said that the company is looking to get into foodservice retail channels, specifically through corporate cafeterias.

Another selling point is Base Bread’s shelf life. Rosenzweig told me that the bread will last a year in the freezer. We’ve in the midst of a pandemic that leads to both panic shopping and a fear of the grocery store, so Base Food’s nutritional profile and long life are both timely selling points. Then again, $3.33 is expensive for a single-serve roll of bread when you can buy a hefty loaf of artisan sourdough from your local bakery for $6 or $7 bucks — or just make your own.

I actually got to sample Base Bread at SKS Japan in August 2019. It was soft and squishy with a malty sweetness — sort of like a honey whole wheat bread. We also got to taste Base Noodles at the SKS 2019 Future Food competition in October, and they were tasty with a flavor akin to a nutty soba noodle.

As someone who loves carbs more than anything else in this world, but is trying to hang onto some semblance of healthy eating during quarantine, Base Bread offers an appealing option. At least until I smother it with butter.

Source: The Spoon

Breeding a Hardier, More Nutritious Wheat

Some new crop varieties are bred to be more nutritious. Others are more resilient, bred to tolerate harsher environmental conditions.

In a new study, researchers report a variety of wheat that combines enhanced nutrition with increased resilience. The researchers also tested a breeding method that could reduce costs and save time compared to traditional methods.

The newly developed wheat variety contains higher levels of a naturally occurring carbohydrate, called fructans.

“Wheat with increased fructan levels can be more climate-resilient in certain situations,” says Lynn Veenstra, a researcher at Cornell University. “These situations include high salinity or cold temperatures”.

Fructans are long chains of the sugar fructose. Unlike the fructose present in foods, such as high-fructose corn syrup, fructans cannot be digested by humans. This makes fructans a good source of soluble fiber.

Previous research has shown that consuming foods with higher fructan levels could also promote healthy gut bacteria.

In the US, a large portion of daily fructan intake comes from wheat products, such as bread. That makes developing high-fructan wheat important.

There’s yet another advantage to using high-fructan wheat. “We wouldn’t have to supplement wheat products with fructans or fiber from other sources,” says Veenstra. “This wheat would already contain higher levels of fructans.”

But breeding high-fructan wheat can be time-consuming and expensive. “The development of nutritionally improved wheat varieties often requires extensive resources,” says Veenstra.

Typically, a process called phenotyping takes the most time. Phenotyping is the measurement of crop characteristics – like fructan levels or yield.

Phenotyping allows plant breeders to compare new and existing varieties of crops. For example, they can test if newer varieties have higher or lower fructan levels than existing crops. At the same time, they need to make sure other crop features – like yield or disease resistance – haven’t been reduced.

A relatively new breeding method can expedite the development of new crop varieties. Veenstra and colleagues tested variations of this method, called genomic selection.

Genomic selection uses a relatively small ‘training’ set of individual plants. Researchers combine phenotyping and genetic data from this training set of plants. Then they use these data to train a statistical model.

Once trained, the statistical model can predict plant characteristics – like fructan levels – based solely on genetics.

“This allows crop breeding without needing to collect data on observed characteristics,” says Veenstra.

Genomic selection saves time and resources in two ways. First, the training set of plants is relatively small. That allows phenotyping to be concluded quickly. Second, genetic testing can often be much quicker than measuring crop characteristics.

Ultimately, genomic selection can allow breeders to save both cost and time during the breeding process.

There are some caveats to using genomic selection, though. Inbreeding can happen, for instance, which can reduce crop diversity. Reduced diversity can make crops susceptible to diseases.

So Veenstra and her colleagues tested two different modes of genomic selection. They found that one method led to wheat with higher fructans while maintaining genomic diversity.

“I think this is the most important finding of this study,” says Veenstra. “Genomic selection can be used for nutritional breeding.”

Researchers still need to know more about the fructans in the new wheat variety. “We also want to determine how stable these fructans are during food processing,” says Veenstra.

For example, yeast degrades different fructans at different rates. That would impact how much fructan ends up in a loaf of bread.

“I believe both wheat growers and consumers stand to benefit from high-fructan wheat,” says Veenstra. “For wheat growers, high-fructan varieties have the potential to withstand climatic stress. For consumers, high-fructan wheat products may have positive impacts on gut-health.”

This research was recently published in Crop Science.

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Nutrition Tips for 14 days at Home

Cynthia Weiss wrote . . . . . . . . .

Between social distancing and self-quarantining, grocery store shelves are stocked with limited supplies as many people try to stock up knowing they can’t leave the house for 14 days. Debra Silverman, a Mayo Clinic dietitian, says that shopping for 14 days at home doesn’t have to become stressful.

First and foremost, Silverman says, make a list.

“Now is the time to double-check the pantry, fridge and freezer, and make a list of what you need that will last. All of us at some point realize when we’re back in our car halfway home, ‘I should have bought some flour or I needed sugar,'” Silverman says.

Silverman also offers these tips:

Think about your family and a new routine.

“You may have kids eating lunch at home now, so you might want to have things like extra peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches. Or flour and sugar, for example, if you’re planning a baking project with your kids,” she says.

Consider alternative options.

While dairy and fresh produce are staples for many households, Silverman says don’t forget shelf-stable alternatives or frozen options. “You can buy egg whites in cartons if you can’t find eggs, for instance,” she says. “Shelf-stable items, such as powered milk, frozen fruits and vegetables, or canned (fruits and vegetables), are always good to have on hand,” she says.

Check expiration dates.

As you shop, Silverman says check expiration dates. And consider items that you can use in multiple ways. “Eggs, for instance, often have three weeks to a month of use. However, egg whites in a carton will give you a much longer time period, say six to eight weeks,” she says.

Don’t forget freezer bags.

Silverman reminds that certain food, especially if you won’t use it immediately, also can be stored in the freezer. “If you find ripe berries in the store, you can freeze those for later use. You can freeze bananas and you can use those for protein fruit smoothies later on.”

Protein, like beef and chicken, can last for about four months in the freezer. Fish, cheese and bread also freeze well, Silverman says.

“But remember, when it’s time to use it, you will want to defrost it safely,” she says, adding that you want to continue to clean and disinfect your food prep station to avoid contamination.

Most importantly, Silverman says, don’t over purchase and maintain your routine. “Just purchase things that you feel that you commonly use, that you know that you’re going to use within two weeks for you and your family.”

Source: Mayo Clinic

Is This Nature’s Healthier Meat Replacement?

Thanks to research suggesting they are better for heart health than animal-based foods, many carnivores are on the hunt for the best plant-based meat replacements they can find.

That may explain the increase in popularity of plant-based burgers in fast-food restaurants and grocery stores. But nutritionists say legumes may be a better option.

Lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans and nuts are natural sources of protein and fiber that are a healthy alternative to highly processed meat substitutes.

“The protein in meat is of high biological value, but the protein in legumes is also good quality protein,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University.

“As a nutritionist, what really concerns me is the overall nutrient composition of these plant-based meat substitutes that are sweeping the marketplace. They are really high in sodium. They’re high in saturated fat. And they’re high in calories.”

Legumes, which actually are the seeds of plants from the legume family, are considerably healthier. They’re linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Plus, their high fiber and protein contribute to satiety – which means they help you feel full, so you eat less.

“For people who don’t want to eat meat, what I would recommend is legumes cooked in a healthy way – rather than these plant-based substitutes,” Kris-Etherton said. “A plant-based diet can be very healthy. A plant-based diet can be very unhealthy, too.”

It’s important to know legumes also contain lectins, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. But lectin is typically reduced during cooking, especially with wet, high-heat methods like boiling or stewing, or soaking legumes in water for several hours.

So, if you’re preparing dried beans, it’s wise to rinse them first, then soak them for as long as four hours. Afterward, beans should be boiled in water roughly three times their volume, then left to simmer until tender.

It’s worth noting beans and other legumes have been commonly – and occasionally comedically – linked to flatulence because they contain high amounts of dietary fiber and carbohydrates that are difficult to digest.

“Don’t just all of a sudden eat a bunch of these legumes because you’ve heard they’re great and heart-healthy,” Kris-Etherton said. “The way that you cook them as well can help make them less gas-producing.”

A trio of studies published in the journal Nutrition concluded the concern over beans’ gas production may be exaggerated and that each person can respond differently to different bean types. Still, to help lower the amount of potential intestinal gas and improve the nutritional quality, food researchers suggest discarding the water the beans are soaking in and cooking in fresh water.

Because legumes come in so many different forms, there are a variety of ways to add them to your diet: puree them into dips and spreads, for example, or snack on a handful of nuts instead of potato chips.

“Mix them up in your diet, and they’ll keep you interested,” Kris-Etherton said. “Add some chickpeas to your salad. Use them as a side dish. Rather than potatoes and rice, use some mixed beans as your sides, and then finally, use them as your main entrée instead of a meat dish.

“It’s not just that you’re adding something good to your diet; if you do it as a good substitution, you’re eliminating something that is unhealthy.”

Source: American Heart Association