Scientists: Can you measure heart-health changes via urine?
February 22, 2018 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Now that I'm in Europe I can watch shows like "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor." But I don't entirely trust this guy on TV. Is it actually possible to measure the health of your heart via a urine test, and is raw olive oil actually good for your heart?

These questions matter to me because all the women in my family (and some of the men) die of heart disease and/or strokes. So when I saw this TV episode, I was curious about these claims:

1. A team at the University of Glasgow have developed a new way of measuring subtle changes in heart health that can happen over only a few weeks, by looking at changes in the patterns of proteins excreted in peoples’ urine: a technique known as proteomics. The changes they are measuring are of the disease itself, which they can pick up before there are any physical symptoms — so it is far more accurate a method than measuring something that is just supposed to be associated with the disease, such as cholesterol levels.

2. In this experiment, it seems that taking 20ml of raw olive oil – either extra virgin or ‘normal’ – can have a positive effect on our hearts.

I tried reading the study this experiment was based on. I looked up one of scientists who was involved in the study. I read an article. But I am not a scientist myself. If I can find out if my heart is diseased via a urine test and/or olive oil can repair heart disease, why isn't this all over the news? It sounds too good to be true.
posted by Bella Donna to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
 
Is it actually possible to measure the health of your heart via a urine test,
For a few specific things, apparently. For your overall heart health there are still a number of other measurements that would tell you more.

and is raw olive oil actually good for your heart?
There is simply no way to draw conclusions one way or the other on this or any other dietary claim regarding a single food. There are too many possible variables in diet, too many genetic predispositions that might indicate positive results in some people and negatives in others, etc.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


There's a lot going on here, so let's break it down a bit. You are right to question TV sources of medical info, even "good" TV sources. However, we have here a nice link to the scholarly peer-reviewed literature (how nice!).
Reading those, we can come to some conclusions*

1) Yes, scientists and doctors can infer information about heart health and function via urine. The summary bit of this is at the top of p. 45 of the study (direct link did not work for me, had to go through first article link)
It says " A new class of biomarkers, urinary proteomic
biomarkers, enables early, presymptomatic detection of disease,
which makes them a very important, effective set of tools for
primary prevention (10). Proteomic biomarkers have been used to
define specific diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD),
chronic kidney disease (CKD), and diabetes (types 1 and 2) (11, 12)." This tells us that if we want to read more about e.g. detecting coronary heart disease via urine analysis, we can (in principle) read reference 11, Evaluation of urinary biomarkers
for coronary artery disease, diabetes, and diabetic kidney disease.
. More detail on exactly what markers they used and how they looked for them is given in the supplementary material.

2) The quoted statement appears to be supported by the Silva et al. (2015) article, a real study by real pros in a real reputable academic journal. Which brings us to...

*Yes, this is reputable peer-reviewed research. For the most part, you can "trust" the findings. However. This is also relatively young research, and it's important to not make sweeping generalizations and think of health in a reductive manner. That is generally the problem with most health headlines, overly reductive/simplistic framing.

It seems too good to be true
Well, yes. "Just eat some raw EVOO every day and never worry about heart health!!#@#" is too good to be true. "One study indicates that a daily dose of EVOO mad a positive effect on heart health in a group of healthy volunteers, as judged by markers in urine, in a short term study" -- that's a fairly safe statement based on what I can see.

Why isn't this all over the news?
A) you came upon it via a show dedicating to publicizing science and medicine. If you look around for "health benefits of olive oil", you'll find a decent body of scholarly research [e.g.], as well as some popular coverage, some decent, and some breathlessly-overstated [e.g.]

On balance: the urine thing may seem amazing, but hey, lots of modern medicine is amazing. Urine contains all kinds of stuff, and doctors have been detecting various diseases non-invasively via urine for thousands of years. This new thing may turn out to be not as reliable as the Silva et al (2015) presents them as, but this is very very far from snake oil, it is the current best understanding of a method.

The EVOO thing seems well supported in the narrow sense studied. Further studies will no doubt flesh out further details and limitations. In the mean time: sure, eat EVOO instead lard or butter. It's almost certainly better for your heart health, but it is no magic cure or silver bullet.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2018 [7 favorites]


The particular link you included is throwing an error for me, but from what SaltySalticid excerpted the area where I'd be casting doubt is whether these biomarkers are actually a perfect measurement of coronary disease as laypeople understand it - it seems exactly as valid as, say, cholesterol would have looked some years ago. We've found some biomarkers, they're associated with these diseases, but fundamentally the endpoint you care about isn't the biomarkers or even "coronary artery disease", it's heart attack and stroke. So that's the chain of causality you really need to sort out to understand how seriously to take these findings.
posted by Lady Li at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2018


It will take more studies to determine how meaningful the biomarker is across the population, and whether the results are indicative enough to be better than or complementary to current tests. It may also take some time before a cost-effective standard lab test is developed.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2018


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