Non-targeted LC-MS/MS metabolomic profiling of human plasma uncovers a novel Mediterranean diet biomarker panel

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• Introduction: Consumption of a Mediterranean diet (MD) has established health benefits, and the identification of novel biomarkers could enable objective monitoring of dietary pattern adherence.

• Objectives: The present investigation performed untargeted metabolomics on blood plasma from a controlled study of MD adherence, to identify novel blood-based metabolite biomarkers associated with the MD pattern, and to build a logistic regression model that could be used to characterise MD adherence.

• Methods: A hundred and thirty-five plasma samples from n = 58 patients collected at different time points were available. Using a 14-point scale MD Score (MDS) subjects were divided into ‘high’ or ‘low’ MDS adherence groups and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was applied for analysis.

• Results: The strongest association with MDS was pectenotoxin 2 seco acid (r = 0.53; ROC = 0.78), a non-toxic marine xenobiotic metabolite. Several lipids were useful biomarkers including eicosapentaenoic acid, the structurally related lysophospholipid (20:5(5Z,8Z,11Z,14Z,17Z)/0:0), a phosphatidylcholine (P-18:1(9Z)/16:0) and also xi-8-hydroxyhexadecanedioic acid. Two metabolites negatively correlated with MDS, these were the monoacylglycerides (0:0/16:1(9Z)/0:0) and (0:0/20:3(5Z,8Z,11Z)/0:0). By stepwise elimination we selected a panel of 3 highly discriminatory metabolites and developed a linear regression model which identified ‘high MDS’ individuals with high sensitivity and specificity (AUC (95% CI) = 0.83 (0.76–0.97)).

• Conclusion: Our study highlights the utility of metabolomics as an approach for developing novel panels of dietary biomarkers. Quantitative profiling of these metabolites is required to validate their utility for evaluating dietary adherence.