Next time you go to the toilet to pee, consider that you’re leaving behind a specimen that would show how you would live and die.
That’s how valuable urine is. No wonder, some people trapped for weeks in collapsed buildings managed to survive by drinking their own fluids, no matter how yucky that might taste. But that’s another story.
In a recent study made in London, researchers found out that the urine samples they collected from 4,000 volunteers from across the world show that people from different nations often have spectacularly different metabolisms.
The findings are explained in this month’s issue of “Nature” journal.
Chemicals left in the urine can reveal a lot about peoples’ bodies and lifestyles, the scientists said.
“For instance, Chinese and Japanese people are almost identical genetically, which isn’t surprising, since they diverged culturally only a few thousand years ago – but they are very different metabolically,” said researcher Jeremy Nicholson, a biological chemist at Imperial College London.
“We know there’s a huge difference in the diseases that different nations risk – broadly speaking, the Japanese tend to die of strokes, the Chinese of heart attacks – and we see those differences reflected in their urine,” he said.
“Of course they’re different in terms of lifestyle – the Japanese tend to eat more fish than the Chinese as a whole do – but their gut bacteria are also very distinct as well.”
Gut microbes help people get energy from our food.
“In your guts, you have about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of 1,000 different species of bacteria,” Nicholson explained. “If you include all the genes from bacteria along with your own, only about 1 to 2 percent of the genes in your body are human, with the rest from the gut microbes. And what bacteria you have can be quite different from person to person.”
Within a country, there can be big differences metabolically among people from different regions, the researchers said.
“You can even pick out different cities – you can see the differences between Chicago and Corpus Christi,” Nicholson said.
The study not only looked at chemicals known to be linked with certain disorders, but also discovered previously unknown links between certain molecules and diseases.
For example, no one had known that a compound known as formate was connected with any disease, “and formate turned out to be strongly linked with blood pressure,” Nicholson said. “So this approach might lead to ways to predict or prevent high blood pressure based off formate.”
In the future, urine might help shed light on diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity and even cancer, he added.
I wouldn’t blame you if this thought cross your mind as you discard your bodily fluids is: “That’s the cure for cancer going down the drain.”