In the dietary and health research area, biomarkers are extensively used for multiple purposes. These include biomarkers of dietary intake and nutrient status, biomarkers used to measure the biological effects of specific dietary components, and biomarkers to assess the effects of diet on health. The implementation of biomarkers in nutritional research will be important to improve measurements of dietary intake, exposure to specific dietary components, and of compliance to dietary interventions. Biomarkers could also help with improved characterization of nutritional status in study volunteers and to provide much mechanistic insight into the effects of food components and diets. Although hundreds of papers in nutrition are published annually, there is no current ontology for the area, no generally accepted classification terminology for biomarkers in nutrition and health, no systematic validation scheme for these biomarker classes, and no recent systematic review of all proposed biomarkers for food intake. While advanced databases exist for the human and food metabolomes, additional tools are needed to curate and evaluate current data on dietary and health biomarkers. The Food Biomarkers Alliance (FoodBAll) under the Joint Programming Initiative-A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI-HDHL)-is aimed at meeting some of these challenges, identifying new dietary biomarkers, and producing new databases and review papers on biomarkers for nutritional research. This current paper outlines the needs and serves as an introduction to this thematic issue of Genes & Nutrition on dietary and health biomarkers.
Keywords: Biomarker; Classification; Databases; Food intake; Metabolomics; Nutrition; Ontology; Review; Validation.