Last updated August 2, 2018 at 10:52 am
A Queensland researcher needs a wee bit of help.
Researchers at the University of Queensland are seeking volunteers prepared to urinate for science.
As part of an ongoing investigation into the role of nitrate in diet, Nick McMahon, of the university’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Science, wants to enrol a cohort of active adults who are prepared to exercise for a couple of hours a week, then pee into a bottle and deliver it to the campus.
Nitrate is a common compound comprising a single atom of nitrogen bonded to three atoms of oxygen. It is an easily soluble substance found in large quantities in certain foods, particularly leafy vegetables such as spinach and rocket, beetroot and cured meats.
Traditionally, it was viewed with suspicion by scientists, because of suspected links between its presence in diets and an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer. However, research in the past decade has changed its reputation dramatically, with studies finding that its consumption, via vegetables, is associated with lower blood pressure and improved immune responses.
Much of the nitrate found in vegetables has an external origin – it accumulates in the plants, transferring from fertilisers applied by farmers. Recognising this, in 1962 the World Health Organisation placed an upper limit on the amount permitted in foods grown for human consumption.
By 2009, however, scientists were proposing that in light of evidence of its beneficial health effects, it should be reclassified from hazard to essential nutrient.
Information is ambiguous
Today, information in the marketplace is ambiguous, with formal upper limit recommendations still in place, but mass market magazines promoting consumption on the grounds that nitrate in food boosts sports performance.
The research being conducted by McMahon and his colleagues should go some way towards resolving the confusion.
“Dietary nitrate has been shown to elevate blood flow to the brain, enhance cognitive function, and improve response accuracy and reaction times,” he said.
“Further understanding of how much nitrate we have in our diet may help us develop recommendations for dietary intake. This could significantly benefit the vascular health of those who need it most.”
And by that, he means the elderly, who might find that boosted nitrate intake delivers quality of life and wellbeing outcomes.
As part of the process, therefore, he is seeking to enlist people aged between 18 and 54 who exercise for at least two and a half hours each week.
Proximity to the university’s campus in the Brisbane suburb of St Lucia is a must. Volunteers will attend at the uni for an initial assessment, and then keep a food diary for three days. On each of those days they will pee in a bottle and hand in the result at the campus.
People interested in participating should get in touch with McMahon on email@example.com