Evaluation at scale of microbiome-derived metabolites as biomarker of flavan-3-ol intake in epidemiological studies
The accurate assessment of dietary intake is crucial to investigate the effect of diet on health. Currently used methods, relying on self-reporting and food composition data, are known to have limitations and might not be suitable to estimate the intake of many bioactive food components. An alternative are nutritional biomarkers, which can allow an unbiased assessment of intake. They require a careful evaluation of their suitability, including: (a) the availability of a precise, accurate and robust analytical method, (b) their specificity (c) a consistent relationship with actual intake. We have evaluated human metabolites of a microbiome-derived flavan-3-ol catabolite, 5-(3′,4′-dihydroxyphenyl)-[gamma]-valerolactone (gVL), as biomarker of flavan-3-ol intake in large epidemiological studies. Flavan-3-ols are widely consumed plant bioactives, which have received considerable interest due to their potential ability to reduce CVD risk. The availability of authentic standards allowed the development of a validated high-throughput method suitable for large-scale studies. In dietary intervention studies, we could show that gVL metabolites are specific for flavan-3-ols present in tea, fruits, wine and cocoa-derived products, with a strong correlation between intake and biomarker (Spearman’s r = 0.90). This biomarker will allow for the first time to estimate flavan-3-ol intake and further investigation of associations between intake and disease risk.