Vegetable Signatures Derived from Human Urinary Metabolomic Data in Controlled Feeding Studies

Examination of changes in urinary metabolomic profiles after vegetable ingestion may lead to new methods of assessing plant food intake. To this regard, we developed a proof-of-principle methodology to identify urinary metabolomic signatures for spinach, celery, and onion. Three feeding studies were conducted. In the first study, healthy individuals were fed with spinach, celery, onion, and no vegetables in four separate experiments with pooled urinary samples for metabolite discovery. The same protocol was used to validate the finding at the individual level in the second study and when feeding all three vegetables simultaneously in the third study. An LC–MS-based metabolomics approach was adopted to search for indicative metabolites from urine samples collected during multiple time periods before and after the meal. Consequently, a total of 1, 9, and 3 nonoverlapping urinary metabolites were associated with the intake of spinach, celery, and onion, respectively. The PCA signature of these metabolites followed a similar “time cycle” pattern, which maximized at approximately 2–4 h after intake. In addition, the metabolite profiles for the same vegetable were consistent across samples, regardless of whether it was consumed individually or in combination. The developed methodology along with the identified urinary metabolomic signatures were potential tools for assessing plant food intake.