Dietary flavonols contribute to false-positive elevation of homovanillic acid, a marker of catecholamine-secreting tumors

Clin Chim Acta. 2011 Jan 14;412(1-2):165-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2010.09.037. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


Background: Urinary homovanillic acid (HVA) measurement is used routinely as a marker of the first test for the screening of catecholamine-secreting tumors and dopamine metabolism, but generates a large number of false-positive results. With no guidelines for dietary restrictions prior to the test, we hypothesize that consumption of flavonol-rich foods (such as onions, tomatoes, tea) prior to urinary catecholamine screening could be responsible for false-positive urinary HVA in healthy subjects.

Methods: A randomized, crossover dietary intervention was carried out in healthy subjects (n=17). Volunteers followed either a low or high-flavonol diet, for a duration of 3 days, prior to providing a 24-h urine sample for HVA measurement using a routine, validated liquid chromatography method as well as a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method.

Results: Dietary flavonol intake significantly increased urinary HVA excretion (p < 0.001), with 3 out of 17 volunteers (20%) exceeding the 40 μmol/24 h upper limit of normal for HVA excretion (false-positive result).

Conclusion: Dietary flavonols commonly found in foodstuff such as tomatoes, onions, and tea, interfered with the routine urinary HVA screening test and should be avoided in the three-day run-up to the test.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / urine*
  • Catecholamines / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diet*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Flavonols / pharmacology*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Homovanillic Acid / urine*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxybenzoates / urine
  • Infant
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / urine*
  • Urinalysis / methods*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Catecholamines
  • Flavonols
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • phenolic acid
  • Homovanillic Acid