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Genes Nutr. 2017 Dec 12;12:34. doi: 10.1186/s12263-017-0587-x. eCollection 2017.

A scheme for a flexible classification of dietary and health biomarkers.

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Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Biomarkers Group, Nutrition and Metabolism Section, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France.
Agroscope, Federal Office of Agriculture, Berne, Switzerland.
University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.
INRA, Human Nutrition Unit, Université Clermont Auvergne, INRA, F63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.
UCD Institute of Food & Health, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Biomarkers and Nutrimetabolomic Laboratory, Department of Nutrition, Food Sciences and Gastronomy, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
CIBER de Fragilidad y Envejecimiento Saludable (CIBERFES), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Barcelona, Spain.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy.
University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland UK.


Biomarkers are an efficient means to examine intakes or exposures and their biological effects and to assess system susceptibility. Aided by novel profiling technologies, the biomarker research field is undergoing rapid development and new putative biomarkers are continuously emerging in the scientific literature. However, the existing concepts for classification of biomarkers in the dietary and health area may be ambiguous, leading to uncertainty about their application. In order to better understand the potential of biomarkers and to communicate their use and application, it is imperative to have a solid scheme for biomarker classification that will provide a well-defined ontology for the field. In this manuscript, we provide an improved scheme for biomarker classification based on their intended use rather than the technology or outcomes (six subclasses are suggested: food compound intake biomarkers (FCIBs), food or food component intake biomarkers (FIBs), dietary pattern biomarkers (DPBs), food compound status biomarkers (FCSBs), effect biomarkers, physiological or health state biomarkers). The application of this scheme is described in detail for the dietary and health area and is compared with previous biomarker classification for this field of research.


Biomarker; Classification; Effect; Exposure; Metabolomics; Nutrition; Ontology; Review; Susceptibility

Conflict of interest statement

Not applicable.Not applicable.The author Hans Verhagen is employed with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, the present article is published under the sole responsibility of Hans Verhagen and the positions and opinions presented in this article are those of the authors alone and are not intended to represent the views or scientific works of EFSA. The other authors declare that they have no competing interests.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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