Biomarkers of appetite: is there a potential role for metabolomics?

Type Article

Journal Article


K. Horner; M. Hopkins; G. Finlayson; C. Gibbons; L. Brennan

Year of publication



Nutr Res Rev








Knowing the biological signals associated with appetite control is crucial for understanding the regulation of food intake. Biomarkers of appetite have been defined as physiological measures that relate to subjective appetite ratings, measured food intake, or both. Several metabolites including amino acids, lipids and glucose were proposed as key molecules associated with appetite control over 60 years ago, and along with bile acids are all among possible appetite biomarker candidates. Additional metabolites that have been associated with appetite include endocannabinoids, lactate, cortisol and β-hydroxybutyrate. However, although appetite is a complex integrative process, studies often investigated a limited number of markers in isolation. Metabolomics involves the study of small molecules or metabolites present in biological samples such as urine or blood, and may present a powerful approach to further the understanding of appetite control. Using multiple analytical techniques allows the characterisation of molecules, such as carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, bile acids and fatty acids. Metabolomics has proven successful in identifying markers of consumption of certain foods and biomarkers implicated in several diseases. However, it has been underexploited in appetite control or obesity. The aim of the present narrative review is to: (1) provide an overview of existing metabolites that have been identified in human biofluids and associated with appetite control; and (2) discuss the potential of metabolomics to deepen understanding of appetite control in humans.