About Metabolomics

Metabolomics refers to the systematic identification and quantification of the small-molecule metabolic products (the set of metabolites, or metabolome) of a biological system (cell, tissue, organ, biological fluid or organism) at a point in time. Mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy are the techniques most often used for metabolome profiling.

The metabolic profile of an individual is composed of all of the byproducts (metabolites) of all of the chemical reactions and enzymatic transformations performed by the body to maintain life. Metabolomics provides a functional understanding of the complex biochemical processes that underlie health. Metabolomics can also be used to study the small molecule composition of foods and other biological systems.

Unprecedented insights come from our ability to measure the small molecule fingerprint of foods, plants, or biological samples. Ohio State scientists use a broad, systematic analysis to gain a global understanding of the chemical composition of these systems and their relationship to health or chronic illness. A promising new frontier is how the small molecule fingerprint changes in response to an intervention, treatment, or exposure, enabling us to improve life quality and combat disease. Ohio State now is leading the charge through metabolomics.

While diet is recognized as a major contributor, an individual's health status and response to foods are influenced by many other additional factors, including genetics, physiology, lifestyle and environmental factors. These factors create differences among individuals in how they process foods and metabolize nutrients and other bioactive components. Such metabolic differences challenge the effectiveness of dietary recommendations and food-based interventions.In order to design and implement effective nutritional interventions for individuals, it is necessary to study the metabolic profile related to foods and nutrients. Discoveries related to personalized food and nutritional metabolomics are facilitating insights about metabolic patterns for the strategic development and implementation of dietary interventions specifically suited for individuals to promote health and prevent disease.

Understanding individual biochemical variability in response to nutrients and foods provides the foundation for developing sound public health messages and personalized dietary recommendations and food-based interventions to improve health and prevent disease. With a focus on personalized food and nutritional metabolomics for health, collaborators in the Foods for Health initiative will:

  • Develop and use state-of-the-art analytical and informatics technologies to comprehensively identify and profile metabolites of nutrients and other bioactive food compounds in foods and biological samples.
  • Collaborate with colleagues who are generating data using other "-omic" technologies to correlate unique features of the human metabolome to unique characteristics of individuals.
  • Discover new biomarkers that define subtypes associated with wellness and diseases.
  • Develop personalized food and nutritional interventions to improve one's metabolic profile to improve health.