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Open Access Review

Dietary biomarkers: advances, limitations and future directions

Valisa E Hedrick1*, Andrea M Dietrich2, Paul A Estabrooks1, Jyoti Savla3, Elena Serrano1 and Brenda M Davy1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, 221 Wallace Hall (0430), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061, US

2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061, US

3 Department of Human Development and Center for Gerontology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061, US

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:109  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-109

Published: 14 December 2012

Abstract

The subjective nature of self-reported dietary intake assessment methods presents numerous challenges to obtaining accurate dietary intake and nutritional status. This limitation can be overcome by the use of dietary biomarkers, which are able to objectively assess dietary consumption (or exposure) without the bias of self-reported dietary intake errors. The need for dietary biomarkers was addressed by the Institute of Medicine, who recognized the lack of nutritional biomarkers as a knowledge gap requiring future research. The purpose of this article is to review existing literature on currently available dietary biomarkers, including novel biomarkers of specific foods and dietary components, and assess the validity, reliability and sensitivity of the markers. This review revealed several biomarkers in need of additional validation research; research is also needed to produce sensitive, specific, cost-effective and noninvasive dietary biomarkers. The emerging field of metabolomics may help to advance the development of food/nutrient biomarkers, yet advances in food metabolome databases are needed. The availability of biomarkers that estimate intake of specific foods and dietary components could greatly enhance nutritional research targeting compliance to national recommendations as well as direct associations with disease outcomes. More research is necessary to refine existing biomarkers by accounting for confounding factors, to establish new indicators of specific food intake, and to develop techniques that are cost-effective, noninvasive, rapid and accurate measures of nutritional status.

Keywords:
Dietary biomarkers; Dietary assessment; Metabolomics