|Since childhood obesity rates have more than doubled amongst children, and quadrupled amongst adolescents, in the past 30 years, doctors are looking for new ways to detect a person’s obesity risk. Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, who have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer — some of the leading causes of preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If an elevated risk is discovered early, something can be done to help prevent children from becoming obese. In order to do just that, doctors can now check a patient’s urine for signs of obesity.
In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers examined the urine samples of more than 2,300 American and British subjects, as well as information regarding their body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, exercise habits, and diets. Using this data, researchers constructed an in-depth biochemical “map” that tracked the way the body processes food, allowing them to take a snapshot of the end product of digestion — molecules known as metabolites.
The study found that nine metabolites in particular appeared to be linked to having a high BMI. Microbes commonly found in the human gut, which are involved in the digestion process, produce these metabolites.
Prior to the study, about half of the cited molecules hadn’t been linked to an increased risk of obesity. The study also suggests that about 5-6% of obesity risk can be explained by the activity of the gut’s microbes.
That being said, study co-author Jeremy Nicholson said that no one should anticipate a single magic bullet from the study, although there is hope that the team’s findings may help create preventative medical procedures towards obesity.
“Our results point to patterns of metabolic markers in the urine associated with obesity,” study co-author Paul Elliott told Reuters. “It may be possible to identify non-obese people who have such patterns in their urine profile. These people could be at risk of developing obesity and metabolic diseases, and might benefit from personalized preventative interventions.”