Urine osmolality in the US population: Implications for environmental biomonitoring

Hung Chieh Yeh, Yu Sheng Lin, Chin Chi Kuo, Darcy Weidemann, Virginia Weaver, Jeffrey Fadrowski, Alicia Neu, Ana Navas-Acien

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41 Scopus citations


Background: For many environmental chemicals, concentrations in spot urine samples are considered valid surrogates of exposure and internal dose. To correct for urine dilution, spot urine concentrations are commonly adjusted for urinary creatinine. There are, however, several concerns about the use of urine creatinine. While urine osmolality is an attractive alternative; its characteristics and determinants in the general population remain unknown. Our objective was to describe the determinants of urine osmolality and to contrast the difference between osmolality and creatinine in urine. Methods: From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (2009-2010), 10,769 participants aged 16 years or older with measured urine osmolality and creatinine were used in the analysis. Very dilute and very concentrated urine was defined as urine creatinine lower than 0.3. g/l and higher than 3. g/l, respectively. Linear and logistic regression analyses were performed to investigate the associations of interest. Results: Urine osmolality and creatinine were highly correlated (Pearson correlation coefficient=0.75) and their respective median values were 648. mOsm/kg and 1.07. g/l. The prevalence of very dilute and very concentrated urine samples was 8.1% and 3.1%, respectively. Factors associated in the same direction with both urine osmolality and urine creatinine included age, sex, race, body mass index (BMI), hypertension, water intake, and blood osmolality. The magnitude of associations expressed as percent change was significantly stronger with creatinine than osmolality. Compared to urine creatinine, urine osmolality did not vary by diabetes status but was affected by daily total protein intake. Participants with chronic kidney disease (CKD) had significantly higher urine creatinine concentrations but lower urine osmolality. Both very dilute and concentrated urine were associated with a diverse array of sociodemographic, medical conditions, and dietary factors. For instance, females were approximately 3.3 times more likely to have urine over-dilution than male [the adjusted odds ratios (95% CI)=3.27 (2.10-5.10)]. Conclusion: Although the determinants of urine osmolality were generally similar to those of urine creatinine, the relative influence of socio-demographic and medical conditions was less on urine osmolality than on urine creatinine. Protocols for spot urine sample collection could recommend avoiding excessive and insufficient water intake before urine sampling to improve urine adequacy. The feasibility of adopting urine osmolality adjustment and water intake recommendations before providing spot urine samples for environmental biomonitoring merits further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-490
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Biomonitoring
  • Urine adequacy
  • Urine creatinine
  • Urine dilution
  • Urine osmolality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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