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Metabolomics: an emerging post-genomic tool for nutrition

  • Phillip D. Whitfield (a1), Alexander J. German (a2) and Peter-John M. Noble (a2)


The post-genomic era has been driven by the development of technologies that allow the function of cells and whole organisms to be explored at the molecular level. Metabolomics is concerned with the measurement of global sets of low-molecular-weight metabolites. Metabolite profiles of body fluids or tissues can be regarded as important indicators of physiological or pathological states. Such profiles may provide a more comprehensive view of cellular control mechanisms in man and animals, and raise the possibility of identifying surrogate markers of disease. Metabolomic approaches use analytical techniques such as NMR spectroscopy and MS to measure populations of low-molecular-weight metabolites in biological samples. Advanced statistical and bioinformatic tools are then employed to maximise the recovery of information and interpret the large datasets that are generated. Metabolomics has already been used to study toxicological mechanisms and disease processes and offers enormous potential as a means of investigating the complex relationship between nutrition and metabolism. Examples include the metabolism of dietary substrates, drug-induced disturbances of lipid metabolites in type 2 diabetes mellitus and the therapeutic effects of vitamin supplementation in the treatment of chronic metabolic disorders.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr P. D. Whitfield, fax +44 151 794 4243, email


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