On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

GETTING AWAY WITH SOMETHING GROSS DOESN'T MAKE IT HEALTHY

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have a question about dried berries. I was spending a pretty penny for dried blueberries to put on my cereal every morning until a friend told me that desiccated berries have no antioxidant value. Can you comment on this? -- R.L., El Cerrito, California

DEAR R.L.: Dried berries and berrylike fruits, including blueberries, cranberries, currants and cherries, are all great and healthful foods. They have considerable nutritive and antioxidant value; I don't know where your friend got his or her information. I add either fresh or dried fruit to my cereal every morning. It's a great way to start the day.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: This is a bit embarrassing, but I am uncertain who else to ask. I have heard that drinking one's own urine several times a day will produce beautiful skin. As weird as this sounds, there are books claiming it's a legitimate treatment. But my understanding is that urine is a waste product and should be eliminated by the kidneys. I have a relative who is planning to do this, and I am concerned for her health. -- P.R., Los Angeles

DEAR P.R.: You are correct that urine is a waste product, containing substances that the body is purposefully eliminating in its attempts to maintain balance. Urine is mostly water, but it will also contain breakdown products from hormones, metabolic waste, drugs, toxins and other foreign substances. Drinking urine would also pose a risk of additional bacterial contamination for anyone suffering from an infection, as urine can be one route by which the byproducts of the infection are shown the way out.

I found mention of the idea of cosmetic benefits from drinking or even washing with urine, but this doesn't make it true. Aside from being totally gross to Western sensibilities, there is no objective evidence in support of the idea. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that there is some unidentified beneficial element in urine. If you consume it to get this "good," it would only come along with the bad and the ugly. You would also be creating an additional burden on your system, as it all has to pass through and find its way out again, taking more of the body's water as it heads out the door.

If you are in good health, well hydrated and not on any medications, the consumption of urine might not cause a problem. But getting away with something is not evidence of its benefit. So while there may be circumstances in which it might not make you sick, on the whole this is a circumstance where the flush is the winning move. You will find a more in-depth treatment of this topic at tinyurl.com/5r6dev.

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.