Association of Urinary and Plasma Levels of Trimethylamine N-Oxide (TMAO) with Foods

Nutrients. 2021 Apr 23;13(5):1426. doi: 10.3390/nu13051426.


Introduction: Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) may play a key mediator role in the relationship between the diet, gut microbiota and cardiovascular diseases, particularly in people with kidney failure. The aim of this review is to evaluate which foods have a greater influence on blood or urinary trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels.

Methods: 391 language articles were screened, and 27 were analysed and summarized for this review, using the keywords "TMAO" AND "egg" OR "meat" OR "fish" OR "dairy" OR "vegetables" OR "fruit" OR "food" in December 2020.

Results: A strong correlation between TMAO and fish consumption, mainly saltwater fish and shellfish, but not freshwater fish, has been demonstrated. Associations of the consumption of eggs, dairy and meat with TMAO are less clear and may depend on other factors such as microbiota or cooking methods. Plant-based foods do not seem to influence TMAO but have been less investigated.

Discussion: Consumption of saltwater fish, dark meat fish and shellfish seems to be associated with an increase in urine or plasma TMAO values. Further studies are needed to understand the relationship between increased risk of cardiovascular disease and plasma levels of TMAO due to fish consumption. Interventions coupled with long-term dietary patterns targeting the gut microbiota seem promising.

Keywords: TMAO; dairy; eggs; fish; foods; meat; microbiota; trimethylamine N-oxide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Meat
  • Methylamines / blood*
  • Methylamines / urine*
  • Seafood


  • Methylamines
  • trimethyloxamine