Examples of biomarkers of dietary intake

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As far as macronutrients are concerned, a well-known biomarker for protein intake is the 24-hour nitrogen (N) excretion. If subjects are in N balance, daily urine N excretion is strongly related to daily N intake. Also for a number of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, biomarkers are available. In the case of vitamin E, the plasma concentration is well related

Examples Food Additives

intake intake

Figure 8.2 Blood/plasma level-intake curves for vitamin E (a) and vitamin C (b).

intake intake

Figure 8.2 Blood/plasma level-intake curves for vitamin E (a) and vitamin C (b).

to intake. The relationship between dietary vitamin C intake and plasma vitamin C concentration is more complex. At high intake levels, plasma vitamin C levels reach a maximum (Figure 15.2).

Another example concerns selenium. The selenium concentration in toenails reflects long-term selenium intake. Biomarkers are also used for exposure to naturally occurring toxins. For example, on exposure to aflatoxins, the carcinogenic products of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxin B1-albumin adducts can be measured in serum.

In comparison to the number of nutrients and other substances in foods, the number of biomarkers for intake is still small. Therefore, further development of the application of biomarkers in nutritional epidemiology is needed. When validated, the use of biomarkers can contribute substantially to nutritional epidemiology. In the future, a dietary questionnaire or interview in combination with the use of biomarkers may appear to be an adequate way to measure exposure. For some nutrients or substances, a questionnaire may provide reliable data, while for others the measurement of biochemical parameters may be a better or the only way to obtain reliable information.

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