Coffee contains various bioactives implicated with human health and disease risk. To accurately assess the effects of overall consumption upon health and disease, individual intake must be measured in large epidemiological studies. Metabolomics has emerged as a powerful approach to discover biomarkers of intake for a large range of foods. Here we report the profiling of the urinary metabolome of cohort study subjects to search for new biomarkers of coffee intake. Using repeated 24-hour dietary records and a food frequency questionnaire, 20 high coffee consumers (183-540 mL/d) and 19 low consumers were selected from the French SU.VI.MAX2 cohort. Morning spot urine samples from each subject were profiled by high-resolution mass spectrometry. Partial least-square discriminant analysis of multidimensional liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry data clearly distinguished high consumers from low via 132 significant (p-value<0.05) discriminating features. Ion clusters whose intensities were most elevated in the high consumers were annotated using online and in-house databases and their identities checked using commercial standards and MS-MS fragmentation. The best discriminants, and thus potential markers of coffee consumption, were the glucuronide of the diterpenoid atractyligenin, the diketopiperazine cyclo(isoleucyl-prolyl), and the alkaloid trigonelline. Some caffeine metabolites, such as 1-methylxanthine, were also among the discriminants, however caffeine may be consumed from other sources and its metabolism is subject to inter-individual variation. Receiver operating characteristics curve analysis showed that the biomarkers identified could be used effectively in combination for increased sensitivity and specificity. Once validated in other cohorts or intervention studies, these specific single or combined biomarkers will become a valuable alternative to assessment of coffee intake by dietary survey and finally lead to a better understanding of the health implications of coffee consumption.
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