A study from London’s Imperial College was published Wednesday on the journal Science Translational Medicine. The researchers took more than 2,000 human urine samples to examine the metabolites, or products of the body’s metabolic processes, within, and ran a battery of tests on the pee, profiling the samples twice in between spans of three weeks, and doing the profiling over a 24-hour time span. They then looked at the metabolites and tried to associate them with diet, exercise, and related activities. Out of those samples, they found 29 species of metabolites with levels seemingly dependent on the person’s body-mass index.
Study lead Jeremy Nicholson and his associates will then be following up with the aforementioned study’s subjects, and will gather additional urine samples from Chinese residents. “The Chinese have become a lot fatter in the 15 years because they’ve westernized,” said Nicholson, who hopes to add a more predictive element to the study by determining which metabolites appear in urine in the 15 years before an individual becomes obese or develops diabetes.
“Since the late 60s or early 70s, people have been trying to figure out the association with obesity,” said Harvard Medical School associate professor Robert Gerszten in an interview. “This paper very nicely adds to the breadth of metabolic disturbances that are associated with human obesity.” He did express doubt, however, as to whether certain enzymes can turn on and off based on a person’s exercise habits. “There are lots of pathways that are aberrant in obesity,” Gerszten continued.