Researchers have consistently shown that there is a strong association between what we eat and our health. For instance, studies show that the dietary intake of flavanols and procyanidins are associated with cardiovascular health. Flavanols are bioactive compounds that can be found in many foods such as apples, blueberries, grapes, pears, and cocoa. A flavanol of interest is epicatechin, which was recently shown to be involved in regulating blood vessel function and heart health.
Epidemiological studies that investigate associations between dietary habits and health are incredibly important because they inform our dietary habits and patterns. They allow us to discern healthy from unhealthy foods, and they can also help us identify foods that are beneficial for patients that have illnesses or those that may be at risk. To conduct these studies properly, researchers need to obtain an accurate estimate of each person’s dietary intake. This is unfortunately not possible with current methods because they rely primarily on self-reported information provided by the participants of the study. Therefore, more effective strategies are necessary to objectively measure dietary intake of different foods and compounds.
In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers conducted a series of studies to demonstrate that SREMB are reliable markers for measuring dietary intake of epicatechin. The SREMB biomarker, which consists of three structurally related epicatechin metabolites, were successfully tested using 24,000 urine samples obtained from the EPIC Norfolk cohort. These biomarkers were found to be specific for epicatechin intake and not any other flavanols that are commonly consumed.
The identification of an epicatechin-specific biomarker can allow researchers to more accurately study the effects of epicatechin intake on cardiovascular health. These studies would no longer have to rely on self-reported information provided by participants; rather, the biomarker can be used to objective measure dietary intake of epicatechin. Moving forward, similar research could help identify novel biomarkers for other dietary compounds that may be important in health. Together, the discovery of such biomarkers would allow scientists to more accurately identify the effects of different dietary compounds on our health.
Written by Haisam Shah
Reference: Ottaviani, J. I., Fong, R., Kimball, J., Ensunsa, J. L., Gray, N., Vogiatzoglou, A., … & Mawson, D. H. (2019). evaluation of (−)-epicatechin metabolites as recovery biomarker of dietary flavan-3-ol intake. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-10.
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