(1)H NMR metabolite profiling of feces as a tool to assess the impact of nutrition on the human microbiome

NMR Biomed. 2008 Jul;21(6):615-26. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1233.


Current research increasingly recognizes the human gut microbiome as a metabolically versatile biological 'digester' that plays an essential role in regulating the host metabolome. Gut microbiota recover energy and biologically active molecules from food that would otherwise be washed out of the intestinal tract without benefit. In this study, a protocol for NMR-based metabolite profiling has been developed to access the activity of the microbiome. The physicochemical properties of fecal metabolites have been found to strongly affect the reproducibility and coverage of the profiles obtained. Metabolite profiles generated by water and methanol extraction of lyophilized feces are reproducible and comprise a variety of different compounds including, among others, short-chain fatty acids (e.g. acetate, propionate, butyrate, isobutyrate, isovalerate, malate), organic acids (e.g. succinate, pyruvate, fumarate, lactate), amino acids, uracil, trimethylamine, ethanol, glycerol, glucose, phenolic acids, cholate, and lipid components. The NMR profiling approach was validated on fecal samples from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over study, in which healthy human subjects consumed a placebo and either a grape juice extract or a mix of grape juice and wine extract over a period of 4 weeks, each. The considerable inter- and intra-individual variability observed originates in the first instance from variable metabolite concentrations rather than from variable metabolite compositions, suggesting that different colonic flora share general biochemical characteristics metabolizing different substrates to specific metabolic patterns. Whereas the grape juice extract did not induce changes in the metabolite profiles as compared with the placebo, the mixture of grape juice and wine extract induced a reduction in isobutyrate, which may indicate that polyphenols are able to modulate the microbial ecology of the gut.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Phenols / administration & dosage*
  • Polyphenols
  • Protons


  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Protons