Milk provides a significant source of calcium, protein, vitamins and other minerals to Western populations throughout life. Due to its widespread use, the metabolic and health impact of milk consumption warrants further investigation and biomarkers would aid epidemiological studies.
Milk intake assessed by a validated food frequency questionnaire was analyzed against fasting blood metabolomic profiles from two metabolomic platforms in females from the TwinsUK cohort (n = 3559). The top metabolites were then replicated in two independent populations (EGCUT, n = 1109 and KORA, n = 1593), and the results from all cohorts were meta-analyzed.
Four metabolites were significantly associated with milk intake in the TwinsUK cohort after adjustment for multiple testing (P < 8.08 × 10−5) and covariates (BMI, age, batch effects, family relatedness and dietary covariates) and replicated in the independent cohorts. Among the metabolites identified, the carnitine metabolite trimethyl-N-aminovalerate (β = 0.012, SE = 0.002, P = 2.98 × 10−12) and the nucleotide uridine (β = 0.004, SE = 0.001, P = 9.86 × 10−6) were the strongest novel predictive biomarkers from the non-targeted platform. Notably, the association between trimethyl-N-aminovalerate and milk intake was significant in a group of MZ twins discordant for milk intake (β = 0.050, SE = 0.015, P = 7.53 × 10−4) and validated in the urine of 236 UK twins (β = 0.091, SE = 0.032, P = 0.004). Two metabolites from the targeted platform, hydroxysphingomyelin C14:1 (β = 0.034, SE = 0.005, P = 9.75 × 10−14) and diacylphosphatidylcholine C28:1 (β = 0.034, SE = 0.004, P = 4.53 × 10−16), were also replicated.
We identified and replicated in independent populations four novel biomarkers of milk intake: trimethyl-N-aminovalerate, uridine, hydroxysphingomyelin C14:1 and diacylphosphatidylcholine C28:1. Together, these metabolites have potential to objectively examine and refine milk-disease associations.
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