The food metabolome: A window over dietary exposure

A. Scalbert, Lorraine Brennan, Claudine Manach, Cristina Andres-Lacueva, L. O. Dragsted, J. Draper, Stephen M. Rappaport, Justin J. J. Van Der Hooft, David S. Wishart

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The food metabolome is defined as the part of the human metabolome directly derived from the digestion and biotransformation of foods and their constituents. With >25,000 compounds known in various foods, the food metabolome is extremely complex, with a composition varying widely according to the diet. By its very nature it represents a considerable and still largely unexploited source of novel dietary biomarkers that could be used to measure dietary exposures with a high level of detail and precision. Most dietary biomarkers currently have been identified on the basis of our knowledge of food compositions by using hypothesis-driven approaches. However, the rapid development of metabolomics resulting from the development of highly sensitive modern analytic instruments, the availability of metabolite databases, and progress in (bio)informatics has made agnostic approaches more attractive as shown by the recent identification of novel biomarkers of intakes for fruit, vegetables, beverages, meats, or complex diets. Moreover, examples also show how the scrutiny of the food metabolome can lead to the discovery of bioactive molecules and dietary factors associated with diseases. However, researchers still face hurdles, which slow progress and need to be resolved to bring this emerging field of research to maturity. These limits were discussed during the First International Workshop on the Food Metabolome held in Glasgow. Key recommendations made during the workshop included more coordination of efforts; development of new databases, software tools, and chemical libraries for the food metabolome; and shared repositories of metabolomic data. Once achieved, major progress can be expected toward a better understanding of the complex interactions between diet and human health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1286-1308
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Early online date23 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2014


  • Animals
  • Biomarkers/blood
  • Diet/adverse effects
  • Digestion
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Metabolome
  • Metabolomics/methods
  • Models, Biological
  • Nutritional Sciences/methods


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