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Fields & Applications Clinical, Food, Beverage & Agriculture, Metabolomics & Lipidomics

Nature Calls for a Mediterranean Diet

Metabolic “signatures” in urine can be used to determine diet quality and predict metabolic health, according to researchers from the University of Southern California, USA (1).  

The team examined urinary metabolites from 1147 European children and collected information about their dietary habits. Using NMR spectroscopy, they discovered that children who followed a Mediterranean diet had higher levels of hippurate, N-methylnicotinic acid and urea, and lower levels of sucrose. But for those who consumed ultra-processed foods, the opposite was true.

Crucially, the researchers found an association between C-peptide – an accurate marker of insulin resistance and future risk of metabolic disease – and those metabolite profiles; higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with lower C-peptide levels, while an ultra-processed diet was linked to higher C-peptide levels. 

“Our work provides further evidence to support efforts by public health authorities to recommend increased adherence to a Mediterranean diet,” said Leda Chatzi, one of the authors of the study, in a press release (2). “Limiting the consumption of ultra-processed foods in childhood could lower the risk of chronic disease later on.”

This study was the first of its kind to consider the metabolic response of the body to overall diet, as opposed to specific food groups. And the researchers discussed the possibility of using the metabolites identified in the study as an objective biomarker of diet quality in children. However, the use of NMR spectroscopy for urinary metabolite profiling did limit the number of metabolites measured, thus providing only partial coverage of the urine metabolome. To that end, the researchers recommended that NMR spectroscopy should be complemented by other techniques, such as mass spectrometry, for any future studies looking into urinary metabolites.

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  1. Stratakis et al., eLife (2022). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.71332 
  2. ScienceDaily (2022). Available at:
About the Author
Margot Lespade

Associate Editor, The Analytical Scientist

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