Metabolomics aims to profile all small molecules that are present in biological samples such as biofluids, tissue extracts and culture media. Combining the data obtained with multivariate data analysis tools allows the exploration of changes induced by a biological treatment or changes resulting from phenotype. Recently, there has been a large increase in interest in using metabolomics in nutritional research and because of the intimate relationship between nutrients and metabolism there exists great potential for the use of metabolomics within nutritional research. However, for metabolomics to reach its full potential within this field it is also important to be realistic about the challenges that are faced. Examples of such challenges include the necessity to have a clear understanding of the causes of variation in human metabolomic profiles, the effects of the gut microflora on the metabolomic profile and the interaction of the gut microflora with the host's metabolism. A further challenge that is particularly relevant for human nutritional research is the difficulty associated with biological interpretation of the data. Notwithstanding these and other challenges, several examples of successful applications to nutritional research exist. The link between the human metabolic phenotype, as characterised by metabolomic profiles, and dietary preferences proposes the potential role of metabolomics in personalised nutrition.
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