The two research projects that were funded under the JPI HDHL Joint Action “Biomarkers for Nutrition and Health” recently finished and the results are now available. The projects FOODBALL and miRDiet aimed at the identification and validation of biomarkers of food intake and nutritional status. Important results are the development of methodologies and databases to identify and store new biomarkers and identified microRNAs that are associated with polyphenol intake and reduced caloric intake. Both projects started in 2014 and involved 25 partners from eleven countries.  

 

Highlights and Results

FOODBALL (The Food Biomarkers Alliance)

FOODBALL systematically explored and validated a range of dietary biomarkers covering relevant public health foods in Europe. Common biomarker sampling techniques and promising new biomarker sampling techniques (i.e. dried blood spot (DBS) analysis) were studied as well. Subsequently, these newly-developed approaches were tested in studies where associations between nutrient and health status were examined.

Harmonization of methodologies

Food metabolites are identified rapidly and to keep track of this standardized methodologies and databases are necessary. To aid the harmonisation of methodologies, FOODBALL developed new and advanced existing platforms for sharing knowledge and resources with the scientific community. For example databases have been developed and the following three are important for the food metabolome field:

  • FooDB: a comprehensive database for food constituents and their chemical and biological data.
  • FoodComEx: a virtual library of isolated food-derived compounds (stored at different laboratories) to enhance exchange of these standards.
  • PhytoHub: a database of dietary phytochemicals and their human and animal metabolites.

FOODBALL also collaborated on the Exposome Explorer, the first database dedicated to biomarkers of exposure to environmental risk factors for diseases.

miRDiet (Circulating microRNAs as markers of dietary intake)

The consortium focused on microRNAs, small molecules that circulate in the blood and are released by adipose tissue. The miRDiet project assessed the potential of microRNAs as suitable biomarkers for dietary intake. This has been done by investigating the microRNA profile in the blood and adipose tissue and its relation with: the quantity of calories (low vs. high calorie), polyphenol intake, protein intake, glycaemic index (change of blood sugar levels). Over 1100 RNA samples have been collected and tested.

The project found some microRNAs associated with polyphenol intake and reduced caloric intake, which will be studied in more detail. No potential biomarkers were defined for protein intake and glycaemic index. The miRDiet project recommends to continue searching for microRNAs as biomarkers for food intake show very promising possibilities for the future. Technical progress could help to overcome barriers to measure (circulating) microRNAs.