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Assessment of protein intake and/or nitrogen balance
Urea is a low molecular weight substance (Mol. Wt.=60) that is freely filtered by glomeruli and the majority is excreted into the urine, although variable amounts are reabsorbed along the nephron. It is the major end product of protein metabolism in humans and other mammals. Approximately 50% of urinary solute excretion and 90% to 95% of total nitrogen excretion is composed of urea under normal conditions. Factors which tend to increase urea excretion include increases in glomerular filtration rate, increased dietary protein intake, protein catabolic conditions, and water diuretic states. Factors which reduce urea excretion include low protein intake and conditions which result in low urine output (eg, dehydration).
Because multiple factors (glomerular filtration rate, dietary protein intake, protein catabolic rate, hydration state, etc.) can independently affect the urinary excretion of urea, all of these factors must by taken into account when interpreting the results.
No significant cautionary statements
Bankir L, Trinh-Trang-Tan MM: Urea and the kidney. In The Kidney. Sixth edition. Edited by BM Brenner. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Company, 2000