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Case Study

Identifying UPF Biomarkers and Their Impact on Health

Metabolon’s involvement in this study helped identify biomarkers of Ultra-Processed Food (UPF) intake and metabolic responses, shedding light on the effects of UPFs on human metabolism and their potential role in disease.

Metabolon proved instrumental in uncovering the effects of UPFs on metabolism, potentially offering valuable insights into their role in health outcomes and providing a basis for further research and strategies to address the health impact of UPFs.

Metabolon proved instrumental in uncovering the effects of UPFs on metabolism, potentially offering valuable insights into their role in health outcomes and providing a basis for further research and strategies to address the health impact of UPFs.

Identifying UPF Biomarkers and Their Impact on Health

The Challenge: Understanding the Health Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods

UPFs are food products that have undergone extensive processing and often contain hydrogenated oils, modified starches, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. These foods are typically highly palatable, convenient, and have a long shelf life. However, consuming a diet high in UPFs has been associated with various health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. In the United States, UPFs constitute more than 60% of the energy consumed by adults and children aged 2 to 18.

Currently, more research is needed to better understand the health effects of consuming UPFs. Addressing this knowledge gap is crucial for developing evidence-based strategies to reduce the consumption of UPFs and mitigate their potential adverse health impacts. In this study, Metabolon helped identify biomarkers of UPF intake and metabolic response to intake.1

Metabolon’s Insight: Identifying Metabolic Differences in UPF and Unprocessed Diet Patterns

This research team used the Metabolon Global Discovery Panel to profile plasma and urine samples from individuals in a domiciled, crossover, controlled-feeding trial. Twenty individuals consumed a UPF diet and an unprocessed diet for two weeks each. Using Metabolon’s services, the researchers identified metabolites that differed between dietary patterns (DP) high in or void of UPFs.

The Solution: Elucidating Key Metabolic Changes Induced by a UPF Diet

Plasma metabolomics showed that 257 out of 993 plasma and 606 out of 1279 urine metabolites differed between DPs. Overall, 21 known metabolites differed across biospecimen types. Six metabolites had higher levels, and fourteen had lower levels following a UPF diet. Acesulfame had the largest effect change between DPs, being higher after the UPF diet. Three metabolites related to benzoate metabolism (2-methozyhydroquinone sulfate, 4-ethylphenyl sulfate, and 4-vinylphenol sulfate) were consistently higher after the UPF diet in both plasma and urine samples. Most bile acids from plasma and urine were lower after the UPF diet. These results suggest that ingredients common to UPFs affect the human metabolome and justify further research as dietary biomarkers of a UPF diet.

The Outcome: Metabolomics Unveils the Effects of UPFs on Human Metabolism

Metabolomics provided a powerful tool for identifying metabolites that change with the intake of UPFs. Metabolomics analyses demonstrated that consuming a diet high in UPFs has a measurable impact on the human metabolome. These metabolites could serve as biomarkers of UPF intake or metabolic response to UPF intake. These biomarkers have the potential to estimate the association of UPFs with disease and provide insight into biological mechanisms linking UPF intake to human health.

References

1. O’Connor LE, Hall KD, Herrick KA, et al. Metabolomic Profiling of an Ultraprocessed Dietary Pattern in a Domiciled Randomized Controlled Crossover Feeding Trial. J Nutr. Jun 03 2023;doi:10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.06.003

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