Methods: Milk intake assessed by a validated food frequency questionnaire was analyzed against fasting blood metabolomic profiles from two metabolomic platforms in females from the TwinsUK cohort (n = 3559). The top metabolites were then replicated in two independent populations (EGCUT, n = 1109 and KORA, n = 1593), and the results from all cohorts were meta-analyzed.
Results: Four metabolites were significantly associated with milk intake in the TwinsUK cohort after adjustment for multiple testing (P < 8.08 × 10−5) and covariates (BMI, age, batch effects, family relatedness and dietary covariates) and replicated in the independent cohorts. Among the metabolites identified, the carnitine metabolite trimethyl-N-aminovalerate (β = 0.012, SE = 0.002, P = 2.98 × 10−12) and the nucleotide uridine (β = 0.004, SE = 0.001, P = 9.86 × 10−6) were the strongest novel predictive biomarkers from the non-targeted platform. Notably, the association between trimethyl-N-aminovalerate and milk intake was significant in a group of MZ twins discordant for milk intake (β = 0.050, SE = 0.015, P = 7.53 × 10−4) and validated in the urine of 236 UK twins (β = 0.091, SE = 0.032, P = 0.004). Two metabolites from the targeted platform, hydroxysphingomyelin C14:1 (β = 0.034, SE = 0.005, P = 9.75 × 10−14) and diacylphosphatidylcholine C28:1 (β = 0.034, SE = 0.004, P = 4.53 × 10−16), were also replicated.
Conclusions: We identified and replicated in independent populations four novel biomarkers of milk intake: trimethyl-N-aminovalerate, uridine, hydroxysphingomyelin C14:1 and diacylphosphatidylcholine C28:1. Together, these metabolites have potential to objectively examine and refine milk-disease associations.