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Application of metabolomics to measure the Alberta “Foodome” Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Borzouie, Shima
Supervisor and department
Wishart, David (Computing Science)
Examining committee member and department
Cooke, Janice (Biological Sciences)
Gallin, Warren (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
Food is fundamental to life. It is the source of essentially all the chemical and biological components found in our bodies. Given its importance, there is a growing desire among food producers, consumers, nutritionists, and dieticians to have a better understanding of the precise chemical content of foods. Unfortunately, the chemical composition of most foods is not well known. Indeed, standard food composition tables only provide data on a few dozen highly abundant chemicals. However, recent advances in analytical chemistry technologies and in the field of metabolomics now make it possible to identify and quantify thousands of compounds in biological matrices. These developments suggest that it may be possible to use metabolomics to more completely characterize the chemical constituents in food. The central objectives of my thesis are: 1) to apply modern quantitative metabolomic methodsto identify and quantify the chemical constituents and micronutrients in a select number of Alberta-grown vegetables, fruits, cereals and meats; and 2) to create a fully web accessible database that contains bothexperimentally derived values and literature-derived information on Alberta-grown foods, called the “Alberta Food Composition Database” (AFCDB:
). In working towards Objective #1, a combination of several modern metabolomics techniques, including ICP-MS, DFI-MS/MS, GC-MS, HPLC, and NMR were used to characterize the chemical constituents of nearly 40 different, Alberta-grown food products. Sample preparation, extraction, and separation techniques were developed or optimized to characterize amino acids, fatty acids, trace metals, vitamins, organic acids, phytochemicals, sugars, and lipids. ICP-MS assays generated composition data for up to 54 metal ions. DFI-MS/MS assay yielded data on about 50-110 compounds per food sample, whilethe GC-MS- ii based assays generated data for about 30-75 non-volatile compounds, 20-40 volatile compounds, and up to 20 fatty acids for each food sample. NMR assays yielded data on 30-50 compounds per food sample. Detailed literature mining led to the identification of up to 2000 more compounds for certain food products. By completing this study, I believe I have helped create perhaps the most comprehensive food information resource in the world. Through the AFCDB, Alberta producers have access to some of the most detailed and information-rich data on the food products they produce. This work could lead toa paradigm shift for food-health labeling, making Alberta food products uniquely appealing for health conscious consumers.

This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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