Using metabolomics to discover novel blood biomarkers of a healthy dietary pattern with a distinct focus on the Mediterranean diet

  • Shirin Macias

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The present project aimed to investigate the metabolomic profile of a Mediterranean diet (MD) and to gain a better understanding of the blood biomarkers associated with it, to compare these with other biomarkers proposed in the literature, and to discover novel biomarkers of a healthy dietary pattern and of a MD in particular. Lastly, this project investigated the changes in the identified MD biomarkers during a 1-year intervention to promote MD adherence. Blood samples and dietary data from the Mediterranean diet in Northern Ireland (MEDDINI) intervention study and a list of 31 targeted plasma and serum biomarkers were used. Four experimental studies were undertaken (two laboratory based and two non-laboratory based) to achieve the above stated aims. Our findings revealed a panel of 15 putative MD biomarkers. The LC-MS shortlisted metabolites in particular were statistically significantly associated with dietary factors (four for fish intake, one for fruit and vegetable intake, and two for processed meat) which made these 7 biomarkers worthy of further investigation together with citric acid, betaine, EPA, α-linolenic acid, vitamin C, myo-inositol, mannose and pyruvic acid. Six of these biomarkers have been associated with MD in previous studies, whereas 8 of them were associated with MD for the first time. The present study also showed the use of cluster analysis to derive dietary patterns from dietary data, classify individuals according to their dietary pattern and find representative biomarkers of such diets. This investigation leaves important findings that, after validation, may be added to current metabolites food and dietary pattern biomarkers libraries.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorJayne Woodside (Supervisor) & Brian Green (Supervisor)


  • Metabolomics
  • dietary patterns
  • Mediterranean diet
  • biomarkers
  • dietary intervention
  • dietary biomarkers
  • cluster analysis
  • liquid chromatography mass spectrometry
  • nuclear magnetic resonance

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