Biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake in human intervention studies: a systematic review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. Oct-Nov 2011;51(9):795-815. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.482217.


Observational evidence consistently shows that consumption of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may offer protection against diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Assessment of dietary intake is complex and prone to many sources of error. More objective biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake are therefore of interest. The aim of this review is to examine the usefulness of the main biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake to act as objective indicators of compliance in dietary intervention studies. A comprehensive search of the literature was conducted using six databases. Suitable papers were selected and relevant data extracted. The papers were categorized into 3 sub-groups: whole diet interventions; mixed fruit and vegetable interventions; and studies involving individual varieties of fruits or vegetables. Ninety-six studies were included in the review. Overall, the most commonly measured, and most consistently responsive, biomarkers were the carotenoids and vitamin C. Based on the results of this systematic review, it remains prudent to measure a panel of biomarkers in fruit and vegetable intervention studies. The only possible exception to this is "fruit only" intervention studies where assessment of vitamin C alone may suffice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / analysis
  • Beverages*
  • Biomarkers*
  • Carotenoids / analysis
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Lutein / analysis
  • Vegetables*
  • Xanthophylls / analysis
  • Zeaxanthins


  • Biomarkers
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Carotenoids
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Lutein