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Fields & Applications Food, Beverage & Agriculture

Quick Update: Foodomics

At the beginning of 2021, we asked leading minds from core omics disciplines to share their thoughts on where we are now – and what we can expect from the future. Representing foodomics, Alejandro Cifuentes, Professor at the Laboratory of Foodomics, Spanish National Research Council in Madrid, Spain, notes that the field has a long way to go to catch up with more established omics fields like genomics and proteomics. “It’s still in its infancy, but the core objective is to demonstrate that food can benefit health,” he says.

For some years, Cifuentes’ team has been honing in on how bioactive compounds could be applied to the treatment of colon cancer. Have his research interests changed over the past year and a half? “Currently, we’re working on the effect of these bioactive compounds from natural sources on Alzheimer disease – another serious ‘pandemic’ – covering oxidation, inflammation, neurotransmitter depletion, and beta-amyloid plaque formation,” he says. “We’ve found some very interesting compounds from food by-products (from the orange juice and olive oil industries) and microalgae with promising neuroprotective activities. This is a huge area of interest in foodomics today.” 

Reflecting on the methods used in foodomics in the 2021 article, Cifuentes discusses how researchers can analyze the proteome of a biological system with a single injection by combining nano-LC and high-resolution MS with isotopic probes bound to hydrolyzed proteins. “Now it is possible to use several high-resolution MS analysers in metabolomics (TOF, FT-ICR-MS, Orbitrap, and other hybrids) alone or coupled to a separation technique (GC, LC, CE, SFC, GCxGC, LCxLC, and others),” he says.

How could foodomics change society for the better? “Imagine if we understood exactly how food can impact our health – knowing the mechanisms behind the way different ingredients impact our bodily homeostasis, positively or negatively, based on a range of factors: our individual genome, our population group, or our specific answer to different food ingredients (allergies, intolerances, and similar),” argues Cifuentes. “I believe we will, eventually, know exactly which ingredients can slow the development of pandemic-scale illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.”

Top foodomics stories from the past two years

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan to, among other things, optimize the “Development Strategy of Agricultural Science & Tech” includes foodomics.

Tufts University researchers conducted a metabolomic profile of nine diets associated with canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Having looked at the quantities of more than 800 compounds, they found that some might be related to DCM, with peas on top of the list.  

Red beans are a rich source of bioactive substances, such as flavanols and anthocyanidins, which offer antiradical activity and human health advantages, according to the chemical profile obtained from this study

Researchers from University Center Koprivnica, Croatia, explore whether foodomics could be used as a tool to monitor the nutritional health of elderly populations in nursing facilities.

Pine honey has a suppressive effect on P. aeruginosa genome expression, with more genes down-regulated than up-regulated. These findings could help to unravel the molecular pathways and biological processes involved in pine honey’s antibacterial action.

Turkey’s Ege University researchers reviewed the foodomics field, highlighting that the combined use of omics techniques can increase analytical efficiency and accuracy, and that bioinformatics can be integrated to process data with advanced analytical methods.

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About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.

From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.


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