A metabolomics approach to the identification of biomarkers of sugar-sweetened beverage intake

Helena Gibbons, Breige A. McNulty, Anne P. Nugent, Janette Walton, Albert Flynn, Michael J. Gibney, Lorraine Brennan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The association between sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and health risks remains controversial. To clarify proposed links, reliable and accurate dietary assessment methods of food intakes are essential. Objective: The aim of this present work was to use a metabolomics approach to identify a panel of urinary biomarkers indicative of SSB consumption from a national food consumption survey and subsequently validate this panel in an acute intervention study. Design: Heat map analysis was performed to identify correlations between 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectral regions and SSB intakes in participants of the National Adult Nutrition Survey (n = 565). Metabolites were identified and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was performed to assess sensitivity and specificity of biomarkers. The panel of biomarkers was validated in an acute study (n = 10). A fasting first-void urine sample and postprandial samples (2, 4, 6 h) were collected after SSB consumption. After NMR spectroscopic profiling of the urine samples, multivariate data analysis was applied. Results: A panel of 4 biomarkers-formate, citrulline, taurine, and isocitrate-were identified as markers of SSB intake. This panel of biomarkers had an area under the curve of 0.8 for ROC analysis and a sensitivity and specificity of 0.7 and 0.8, respectively. All 4 biomarkers were identified in the SSB sample. After acute consumption of an SSB drink, all 4 metabolites increased in the urine. Conclusions: The present metabolomics-based strategy proved to be successful in the identification of SSB biomarkers. Future work will ascertain how to translate this panel of markers for use in nutrition epidemiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2015


  • Acute intervention study
  • Dietary biomarkers
  • Metabolomics
  • Panel of biomarkers
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'A metabolomics approach to the identification of biomarkers of sugar-sweetened beverage intake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this