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Untargeted Metabolomics Identifies Novel Potential Biomarkers of Habitual Food Intake in a Cross-Sectional Study of Postmenopausal Women

Wang, Ying; Gapstur, Susan M.; Carter, Brian D.; Hartman, Terryl J.; Stevens, Victoria L.; Gaudet, Mia M.; McCullough, Marjorie L.

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PMID: 29767735


Background: Recent studies suggest that untargeted metabolomics is a promising tool to identify novel biomarkers of individual foods. However, few large cross-sectional studies with comprehensive data on habitual diet and circulating metabolites have been conducted. Objective: We aimed to identify potential food biomarkers and evaluate their predictive accuracy. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of consumption of 91 food groups or items, assessed by a 152-item food-frequency questionnaire, in relation to 1186 serum metabolites measured by mass spectrometry-based platforms from 1369 nonsmoking postmenopausal women (mean age = 68.3 y). Diet-metabolite associations were selected by Pearson's partial correlation analysis (P  0.2). The predictive accuracy of the selected food metabolites was evaluated from the area under the curve (AUC) calculated from receiver operating characteristic analysis conducted among women in the top and bottom quintiles of dietary intake. Results: We identified 379 diet-metabolite associations. Forty-two food groups or items were correlated with 199 serum metabolites. We replicated 63 metabolites as biomarkers of habitual food intake reported in previous cross-sectional studies. Among those not previously shown to be associated with habitual diet, several are biologically plausible and were reported in acute feeding studies including: banana and dopamine 3-O-sulfate (r = 0.34, AUC = 76%) and dopamine 4-O-sulfate (r = 0.33, AUC = 74%), garlic and alliin (r = 0.24, AUC = 69%), N-acetylalliin (r = 0.27, AUC = 70%), and S-allylcysteine (r = 0.23, AUC = 69). Two unannotated metabolites were the strongest predictors for dark fish (X-02269, r = 0.51, AUC = 94%) and coffee intake (X-21442, r = 0.62, AUC = 98%). Conclusion: In this comprehensive, cross-sectional analysis of habitual food intake and serum metabolites among postmenopausal women, we identified several potentially novel food biomarkers and replicated others. Our findings contribute to the limited literature on food-based biomarkers and highlight the significant and promising role that large cohort studies with archived blood samples could play in this field. This study was registered at as NCT03282812.

Automatic Tags

Female; Humans; Cross-Sectional Studies; Aged; Middle Aged; Diet; Nutritional Physiological Phenomena; Feeding Behavior; Biomarkers; Postmenopause; Metabolomics; Metabolome; Food biomarker; Serum; Untargeted metabolomics

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