There is absolutely no scientific evidence that drinking urine has any benefits whatsoever.
Urine is produced by the body to remove toxins like urea (hence the name). These toxins are filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, preventing them from building up in the body and causing us harm. So why would you put these toxins back in again?
Add to that the fact that, your urine is not – contrary to bewildering popular belief – sterile. Just like all body orifices, the urethra is home to a wealth of bacteria. So if you drank your own urine, you would be knocking back the bacteria in it as well. And if you douse your wound in urine, you’re bathing it in a plethora of bacteria. With urinary tract infections affecting 150 million people each year worldwide, do you really want to risk it?
But if many people around the world – including Morarji Desai, a past Prime Minister of India – drink their own urine, there must be some benefit – right?
Again, no. It’s likely that drinking urine – known as urine therapy – ‘works’ for some people because of the placebo effect. They believe that drinking their urine will make them more beautiful or cure their ailments, so after gulping a glass or two they feel like their skin is softer and their dodgy hip is getting better. It would probably work just the same if you gave them yellow coloured water and told them it was urine. And yes, that is someone drinking their own urine in the photo (right).
Even in a survival situation, drinking urine is not a good idea. If you are dehydrated, your body holds onto all of the water it can. That means that what little urine you produce will be extremely concentrated and dark in colour. Drinking this tiny amount of urine will not put enough water back into your body for it to be worth it. You’ll still be dehydrated at the end of it, but now your breath will smell and you’ll probably feel sick. After all, you have just drunk your own urine. Who wouldn’t feel a bit queasy?
There is one place, however, where drinking your urine is advisable – when you’re in outer space.
NASA has developed urine processors that turn the urine of astronauts into drinking water. On a spaceship, where only so much water can be carried on board, the recycling of waste water into drinking water is essential. And salvaging every drop of moisture in this way will be especially important if we are ever going to make it all the way to Mars. Thankfully, the end product of urine processors is clean drinking water that bears no resemblance to what you glimpse in the toilet.
Even so, it must be pretty hard taking that first gulp. I think I’d rather stay on earth.