British Journal of Nutrition

Workshop Report

Metabolomics and human nutrition

Sandy Primrosea1, John Drapera2, Rachel Elsoma3 c1, Verity Kirkpatricka3, John C. Mathersa4, Chris Seala4, Manfred Beckmanna4, Sumanto Haldara4, John H. Beattiea5, John K. Lodgea6, Mazda Jenaba7, Hector Keuna8 and Augustin Scalberta9

a1 Prosciagen Consulting, High Wycombe, UK

a2 IBERS, University of Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth, UK

a3 Nutrition Division, Food Standards Agency, 125 Kingsway, London WC2 6NH, UK

a4 Human Nutrition Research Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

a5 Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

a6 Cranfield Health, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK

a7 International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO), Lyon, France

a8 Imperial College, London, UK

a9 French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Clermont-Ferrand, France


The present report summarises a workshop convened by the UK Food Standards Agency (Agency) on 25 March 2010 to discuss the current Agency's funded research on the use of metabolomics technologies in human nutrition research. The objectives of this workshop were to review progress to date, to identify technical challenges and ways of overcoming them, and to discuss future research priorities and the application of metabolomics in public health nutrition research and surveys. Results from studies nearing completion showed that by using carefully designed dietary and sampling regimens, it is possible to identify novel biomarkers of food intake that could not have been predicted from current knowledge of food composition. These findings provide proof-of-principle that the metabolomics approach can be used to develop new putative biomarkers of dietary intake. The next steps will be to validate these putative biomarkers, to develop rapid and inexpensive assays for biomarkers of food intake of high public health relevance, and to test their utility in population cohort studies and dietary surveys.

(Received July 28 2010)

(Revised July 29 2010)

(Accepted July 29 2010)

(Online publication January 24 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: R. Elsom, fax +44 20 7972 4346, email


Abbreviations: Agency, UK Food Standards Agency; EPIC, European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition; FIE-MS, flow infusion electrospray mass spectrometry; GC-TOF-MS, gas chromatography-time-of-flight-mass spectrometry; MEDE, MEtabolomics to characterise Dietary Exposure; SOP, Standard operating procedures