FOODBALL Project Overview

Food frequency questionnaires, food diaries, and 24 h recall methods represent the most commonly used dietary assessment tools in human studies on nutrition and health. As food intake biomarkers provide a more objective reflection of intake compared to self-reported data, food intake biomarkers may provide valuable complementary data. However, very few of these biomarkers are sufficiently validated. In a three year research program, the Food Biomarkers Alliance (FoodBAll) aims to develop clear strategies for food intake biomarker discovery and validation, and to identify and validate biomarkers for a range of foods consumed across Europe. The methods include extensive literature reviews, acute intervention studies, as well as analyses of existing intervention and observational studies. Importantly, metabolomics techniques will be used for the discovery of biomarkers as the main -omics technique. In addition, new biomarker sampling techniques will be investigated. Moreover, the FoodBAll consortium will develop an unique platform for sharing knowledge and resources with the scientific community (i.e. open-access databases on food metabolites, public web portal on useful resources for annotation of food metabolome profiles and food intake biomarker discovery, and a food-derived chemical library), and provide input for authorities and stakeholders on the value of biomarkers for the evaluation of health-claims of foods. Ultimately, the FoodBAll consortium envisages to:
  1. contribute to validation of existing dietary assessment tools;
  2. provide markers of compliance for dietary intervention studies;
  3. improve the reliability of observational studies on the role of diet in human health.
WP1 - Discovery of Novel Biomarkers of Food Intake
Led by Dr. Lorraine Brennan

The objectives of WP1 (Discovery of novel biomarkers of food intake) will define optimal strategies for discovery of biomarkers of food intake. This will be achieved by including method development for new matrices, conducting well-defined and standardized acute intervention studies, and analyses of stored samples and data from interventions and cross-sectional studies. The combination of these approaches will lead to significant impact in an important field.
The FoodBall intervention studies were performed across 7 centres in Europe focusing on a range of foods. A summary of the centres involved and foods is given below. Briefly, acute intervention studies were performed at each centre using a common design and standard operating procedure harmonising inclusion/exclusion criteria, samples collection times and sample processing.
Selected FoodForm of AdminstrationStudy Centre
Sugar-sweetened beverageCoca-Cola (500ml)MRI (Germany)
AppleElstar, fresh fruit (400g)MRI (Germany)
TomatoRaw cherry tomatoes (300g)INRA (France)
BananaFresh fruit (240g)INRA (France)
MilkPasteurized full-fat milk (600 ml)Agroscope (Switzerland)
CheesePasteurized Gruyère cheese (100g)Agroscope (Switzerland)
BreadToast (75g), Inulin (5g), beta-glucans (2.5g)TUM (Germany)
Meat and meat productsChicken breast (100g, 200g)TUM (Germany)
Red meat and white meatBeef (150g), Chicken (177g), pork (150g) in different groupsUCop (Denmark)
PotatoCooked, fried & chips (200g) in different groupsUCop (Denmark
CarrotBoiled in unsalted water (141g)UCD (Ireland)
PeasCooked (138g)UCD (Ireland)
LentilsCooked (300g)UB (Spain)
ChickpeasCooked (300g)UB (Spain)
Root vegetables
WP2 - Nutritional Status Biomarkers and Sampling
Led by Dr. Christian A. Drevon

WP2 is focused on Nutritional status biomarkers and sampling. The ambition is to get a comprehensive and representative view of validated and potentially new biomarkers for nutrient status/intake in different matrices.
WP3 - Food Intake Biomarker Classification and Validation
Led by Dr. Lars Ove Dragsted

WP3 will focus on Food intake biomarker classification and validation. There is currently no general validation system for food intake or nutritional intake biomarkers. Thus, a better guidance for biomarker validation is pertinent, and better methods for combining biomarkers to improve intake assessments are warranted.

The validation criteria will include standard analytical quality control along with criteria related to biomarker kinetics (dose response, time-response), metabolic and other host factor effects, food matrices, and specificity for the actual foods. WP3 will provide a new classification system for intake biomarkers and provide guidelines for intake biomarker validation.
WP4 - Tools and Resources
Led by Dr. Claudine Manach

WP4 will develop tools and resources to facilitate the discovery and validation of dietary biomarkers and to share knowledge within and beyond FoodBAll with the scientific community. In particular:
  1. Comprehensive food metabolome databases, which are required for reliable and fast annotation of metabolites derived from foods in metabolomics profiles: FooDB and PhytoHub.
  2. Information on all dietary biomarkers measured in population studies collated from the scientific literature in a biomarker database: Exposome-Explorer.
  3. A new chemical library for food-derived compounds, which is required for validation and identification of candidate biomarkers in the metabolomics profiles: FoodComEx.
  4. The present public web portal as a unique platform for sharing knowledge and resources, providing public access to the new tools and hyperlinks to additional resources and information.
WP5 - Bridging Dietary Biomarkers to Health Pathways
Led by Dr. Helen Roche

WP5 (Bridging dietary biomarkers to health pathways) aims to (1) relate dietary biomarkers to disease risk, taking a pathway- and network-based bioinformatics approach building on existing transcriptomic and metabolomics data; (2) explore how new dietary biomarkers identified within WP1, WP2, and WP3 modulate disease risk using pathway- and network-analyses.
WP6 - Policy Package
Led by Dr. Hans Verhagen

This WP6 (Policy package) will establish a link to EFSA, as Prof. Hans Verhagen (WP leader) is a long-standing member of the EFSA panel on Nutrition, Dietetic products and Allergies (NDA as of 2006). This will provide valuable input for the national authorities regarding biomarkers for evaluation of nutrition- or health-claims of foods. WP6 will also provide policy papers on reference levels regarding nutrients, nonnutrients, contaminants and food additives, and describe the policy need and relevance of uncertainty analyses.
WP7 - Coordinative Package
Coordinator: Edith Feskens, Wageningen University

The Coordinative package involves development and effectuation of a Consortium Agreement, guiding and guarding the specific deliverables, advising project partners in reaching the goals, and organising regular plenary meetings and teleconferences with project members. The 2nd management task consists of supporting interaction with stakeholders and dissemination of the results: communication and reporting to the JPI Steering Committee, installing and liaising with the FOODBALL Scientific Advisory Board, setting up and maintaining a website, and organising the final FOODBALL Symposium.