An exploratory NMR nutri-metabonomic investigation reveals dimethyl sulfone as a dietary biomarker for onion intake

Analyst. 2009 Nov;134(11):2344-51. doi: 10.1039/b918259d. Epub 2009 Sep 24.


The metabolome following intake of onion by-products is evaluated. Thirty-two rats were fed a diet containing an onion by-product or one of the two derived onion by-product fractions: an ethanol extract and the residue. A 24 hour urine sample was analyzed using (1)H NMR spectroscopy in order to investigate the effects of onion intake on the rat metabolism. Application of interval extended canonical variates analysis (ECVA) proved to be able to distinguish between the metabolomic profiles from rats consuming normal feed and rats fed with an onion diet. Two dietary biomarkers for onion intake were identified as dimethyl sulfone and 3-hydroxyphenylacetic acid. The same two dietary biomarkers were subsequently revealed by interval partial least squares regression (PLS) to be perfect quantitative markers for onion intake. The best PLS calibration model yielded a root mean square error of cross-validation (RMSECV) of 0.97% (w/w) with only 1 latent variable and a squared correlation coefficient of 0.94. This indicates that urine from rats on the by-product diet, the extract diet, and the residue diet all contain the same dietary biomarkers and it is concluded that dimethyl sulfone and 3-hydroxyphenylacetic acid are dietary biomarkers for onion intake. Being able to detect specific dietary biomarkers is highly beneficial in the control of nutritionally enhanced functional foods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Diet*
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / chemistry
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / metabolism*
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide / urine
  • Eating*
  • Ethanol / chemistry
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Metabolomics*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Onions* / chemistry
  • Phenylacetates / chemistry
  • Phenylacetates / metabolism
  • Phenylacetates / urine
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / urine
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Rats
  • Solubility
  • Sulfones / chemistry
  • Sulfones / metabolism*
  • Sulfones / urine


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Phenylacetates
  • Plant Extracts
  • Sulfones
  • Ethanol
  • dimethyl sulfone
  • 3-hydroxybenzeneacetic acid
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide