Evaluating the robustness of biomarkers of dairy food intake in a free-living population using single- and multi-marker approaches

Katherine J. Li, Kathryn J. Burton-Pimentel*, Elske M. Brouwer-Brolsma, Edith J.M. Feskens, Carola Blaser, René Badertscher, Reto Portmann, Guy Vergères

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Studies examining associations between self-reported dairy intake and health are inconclusive, but biomarkers hold promise for elucidating such relationships by offering objective measures of dietary intake. Previous human intervention studies identified several biomarkers for dairy foods in blood and urine using non-targeted metabolomics. We evaluated the robustness of these biomarkers in a free-living cohort in the Netherlands using both single- and multi-marker approaches. Plasma and urine from 246 participants (54 ± 13 years) who completed a food frequency questionnaire were analyzed using liquid and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The targeted metabolite panel included 37 previously-identified candidate biomarkers of milk, cheese, and/or yoghurt consumption. Associations between biomarkers and energy-adjusted dairy food intakes were assessed by a ‘single-marker’ generalized linear model, and stepwise regression was used to select the best ‘multi-marker’ panel. Multi-marker models that also accounted for common covariates better captured the subtle differences for milk (urinary galactose, galactitol; sex, body mass index, age) and cheese (plasma pentadecanoic acid, isoleucine, glutamic acid) over single-marker models. No significant associations were observed for yogurt. Further examination of other facets of validity of these biomarkers may improve estimates of dairy food intake in conjunction with self-reported methods, and help reach a clearer consensus on their health impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number395
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2021


  • Cheese
  • Dairy
  • Food intake biomarkers
  • Milk
  • Multi-markers
  • Validation
  • Yoghurt


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