Medical myths: Your urine should be almost clear

Dr Max Pemberton 

The doctor is in the house! Myth buster extraordinaire Dr Max Pemberton is back to put another old wive's tale to rest. This time, is it true that dark coloured urine is a sign of ill health?

Where did the myth come from?

Like all good myths, this one sounds believable because it’s based on a half-truth. It’s assumed that if your urine is yellow in colour, then you must be dehydrated.

It’s true that when people are severely dehydrated their kidneys—the organs that filter the blood and make urine—conserve fluid and therefore produce more concentrated urine.

However, dark urine on its own isn’t a good indication of whether or not someone’s dehydrated.

Read more: 7 great tips to stay hydrated


What’s the truth?


It surprises many people to hear that normal urine varies in colour from person to person and that healthy urine can be yellow and not be any cause for concern.

The colour of urine depends on how many chemicals are dissolved in it—it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehydrated.

In fact, in one study, it was found that perfectly healthy and well-hydrated people’s urine had a urine concentration that was better described as “dark” yellow.


So there’s nothing to worry about?

If your urine is very dark and your stool is very light, then you should speak to a doctor as this can mean you have a liver problem known as “obstructive jaundice”.

People with certain medical conditions, such as recurrent kidney stones, are often advised to drink a lot of fluids and to aim to have their urine almost colourless. For the rest of us, there’s not too much to worry about.


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