Background: Nutritional metabolomics is rapidly evolving to integrate nutrition with complex metabolomics data to discover new biomarkers of nutritional exposure and status.
Content: The purpose of this review is to provide a broad overview of the measurement techniques, study designs, and statistical approaches used in nutrition metabolomics, as well as to describe the current knowledge from epidemiologic studies identifying metabolite profiles associated with the intake of individual nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns.
Summary: A wide range of technologies, databases, and computational tools are available to integrate nutritional metabolomics with dietary and phenotypic information. Biomarkers identified with the use of high-throughput metabolomics techniques include amino acids, acylcarnitines, carbohydrates, bile acids, purine and pyrimidine metabolites, and lipid classes. The most extensively studied food groups include fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, whole grain cereals, nuts, wine, coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate. We identified 16 studies that evaluated metabolite signatures associated with dietary patterns. Dietary patterns examined included vegetarian and lactovegetarian diets, omnivorous diet, Western dietary patterns, prudent dietary patterns, Nordic diet, and Mediterranean diet. Although many metabolite biomarkers of individual foods and dietary patterns have been identified, those biomarkers may not be sensitive or specific to dietary intakes. Some biomarkers represent short-term intakes rather than long-term dietary habits. Nonetheless, nutritional metabolomics holds promise for the development of a robust and unbiased strategy for measuring diet. Still, this technology is intended to be complementary, rather than a replacement, to traditional well-validated dietary assessment methods such as food frequency questionnaires that can measure usual diet, the most relevant exposure in nutritional epidemiologic studies.
© 2017 American Association for Clinical Chemistry.