Could we soon predict our risk of obesity with a simple urine test?

It may be possible to predict our risk of obesity or diabetes from the urinary metabolites in our intestinal microbiota, which could eventually lead to individually tailored diets.

Not everyone reacts the same when they go on a diet. Obesity and diabetes, which are strongly linked to interactions between our genes and the environment, also depend on our intestinal microbiota, which is itself affected by what we eat. To better understand the role bacteria play in the development of these disorders, researchers analyzed the urinary metabolites of mice. They determined a microbial metabolic profile specific to each mouse. Then they put the mice on a high-fat diet and observed the effects. Not all of the mice reacted in the same way: while some of them stayed thin, others became obese and/or less tolerant of glucose - two early signs of diabetes.

From their microbial metabolic profile, the researchers discovered that certain components, specifically TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), allowed them to predict how the mice would react to the change in diet. As a result, they could also deduce that the way we benefit from the nutritional properties of foods is not only determined by our genes, but also by our intestinal microbiota. This discovery opens many doors in terms of personalized nutrition: one day, perhaps, a simple urine or blood test will allow us to choose the most suitable diet for each individual.

Dumas M. et al. Microbial-Host Co-metabolites Are Prodromal Markers Predicting Phenotypic Heterogeneity in Behavior, Obesity, and Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Cell Reports, vol. 20, Issue 1, p136-148, 5 July 2017.