The Impact of Diet on Health: Biomarkers Open the Way to New Discoveries

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The Impact of Diet on Health: Biomarkers Open the Way to New Discoveries

Bern, 10.07.2018 - Do you remember what and how much you ate three days ago? This question, which people often struggle to answer accurately, must be addressed by researchers studying the influence of diet on our health. Agroscope has recently identified molecules indicative of dairy and soy product consumption in the blood and urine samples of volunteers taking part in nutritional studies.

Metabolomics is a modern analytical technique enabling the quantification of thousands of metabolites, molecules arising from human metabolism. The majority of metabolites detected in e.g. human blood and urine samples stem from our diet. Metabolomics is therefore a very useful tool for identifying "biomarkers of dietary intake": metabolites that allow us to identify foods that we have eaten.

FoodBAll: A European Project for Promoting Nutritional Metabolomics

In 2014, the European ’Food Biomarkers Alliance’ (FoodBAll) Project was launched with the aim of furthering the use of metabolomics in nutritional research, particularly in order to identify and validate intake biomarkers for a dozen foods representing the categories of the food pyramid. The FoodBAll consortium comprises 22 research groups from nine European countries as well as Canada and New Zealand. Agroscope and the University of Lausanne, two members of the consortium, carried out a human study which has identified promising intake biomarkers for milk, cheese and a soy-based drink.

New Findings on the Health Effects of Milk and Yoghurt

A second human study, ’Function of Fermented Food’ (F3), explored the effects of milk fermentation on human metabolic profiles. The study demonstrated numerous differences in the appearance of metabolites in the blood after the consumption of acidified milk vs. probiotic yoghurt. Some of these metabolites suggest that milk fermentation can contribute additional nutritional properties to the dairy product in question. The study also showed that the inflammatory response caused by eating a high-fat meal is attenuated by the regular intake of dairy products. A recently published American study confirmed these findings. For further information, see the ’Publications’ section below.

FoodBAll and F3 Projects Conclude, Cardioferment Project Begins

The FoodBAll and F3 studies have enabled the identification of various biomarkers for the intake of dairy products such as galactose and lactose. They have also provided information on the links between fermented-food intake and human health, thereby blazing new trails in research. The Cardioferment Project, which will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Wageningen (NL), sets out to explore these new directions from Autumn 2018, in particular through the analysis of a cohort study in which the daily nutritional intake of participants is examined in detail.


Research Programmes

FoodBAll is part of the European programme ’Joint Programming Initiative - A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’ (JPI-HDHL).

Swiss research activities on behalf of the FoodBAll Project are funded by the National Research Programme ’NRP 69: Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production’.


The work described above has been published in the following articles:

Pimentel et al.: Metabolic Footprinting of Fermented Milk Consumption in Serum of Healthy Men. J Nutr 2018 148:851-860.

Münger et al.: Identification of Urinary Food Intake Biomarkers for Milk, Cheese, and Soy-Based Drink by Untargeted GC-MS and NMR in Healthy Humans. 2018 J Prot Res 16:3321-3335.

Pimentel et al.: Blood lactose after dairy product intake in healthy men. Br J Nutr 2017 118: 1070-1077.

Burton et al.: Probiotic yogurt and acidified milk similarly reduce postprandial inflammation and both alter the gut microbiota of healthy, young men. Br J Nutr 2017 117:1312-1322.

Pei et al.: Premeal low-fat yogurt consumption reduces postprandial inflammation and markers of endotoxin exposure in healthy premenopausal women in a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr. 2018 48:910-916.