The future of micronutrient status assessment:
NIHS leads the way

Lausanne, Switzerland 28th February 2018. Dietary micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are essential for health at every stage in life. But despite 100 years of research, important knowledge gaps remain on how to measure micronutrients in biological systems (blood, urine, cells) in an accurate, holistic and cost-efficient way. Yet if we could, it would not only open new research avenues to unravel the molecular mechanisms underpinning how micronutrients affect our health, but also offer a novel approach to analysing individuals' nutritional status.

So a team of international experts from a range of major companies and academic partners set out to discuss current methodologies for assessing micronutrient status in humans. The team identified methodological gaps, key development needs and reached scientific consensus on what will shape the nutritional status of the 21st century. Leveraging its expertise on molecular profiling and micronutrient biology, the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) took the lead in this process, and the team's thoughts and conclusions have now been compiled in a peer-reviewed publication in Trends in Analytical Chemistry.

Measuring nutritional status is key to determining an individual's nutritional requirements for good health. This is traditionally done using different analytical methodologies that focus on just one micronutrient at a time. However, recent technological improvements in chromatography and mass spectrometry make it possible to perform high-throughput micronutrient quantitative profiling of multiple vitamin forms and minerals in a range of biological matrices with unprecedented speed and sensitivity.

These micronutrient profiling analyses are essential if we're to better manage nutritional health and offer individual-specific lifestyle and dietary guidance. Micronutrient profiling is expected to become a core component of science-based personalised nutrition approaches, helping us navigate the complexity of molecular interactions between micronutrients themselves, as well as genetic background, lifestyle, diet, environment and disease factors.

Beyond central laboratory-based micronutrient testing, the paper addresses emerging miniaturised point-of-need technologies that could revolutionise nutritional status analysis, offering access to convenient self-assessments of nutritional health by the consumer. The authors also consider the possibility of alternatives to traditional blood assays such as saliva, sweat, hair and breath for the minimally invasive analysis of several micronutrient status or functional markers, stressing the need for proper validation of such methods.

“Here at NIHS, we have developed first-rate knowledge that tells us precisely what to measure, where, and how to interpret the results, as shown by our recent research into how vitamin B12 deficiency affects aging and physical frailty, for example”, comments Serge Rezzi, who led the work for NIHS.

“Nestlé's recent acquisition of Atrium Innovations – a global leader in the development, manufacture and commercialisation of innovative, science-based, natural health products – further demonstrates our commitment to fully understand the nutritional needs of consumers and move towards personalised nutrition through innovative health products and tailored solutions.

“The main challenge now is to achieve the high levels of sensitivity required to enable measurement of nutritional status in different biological compartments such as cells and subcellular compartments. Miniaturisation technologies will also be crucial if we’re to popularise nutritional status assessment in people's lifestyle management.”

Revisiting micronutrient status is key to shaping the future of holistic nutrition and health management. As such, it makes good business sense and fully supports our “Good Food, Good Life” commitments.

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About NIHS:

NIHS is a biomedical research institute, part of Nestlé’s global R&D network, dedicated to fundamental research aimed at understanding health and disease and developing science-based, targeted nutritional solutions for the maintenance of health. To achieve its aim, NIHS employs state-of-the-art technologies and biological models to characterise health and disease with a holistic and integrated approach. The ultimate goal of the Institute is to develop knowledge that can empower people to better maintain their health through nutritional approaches, especially in relation to their molecular profile and lifestyle status.


Höller U, Bakker SJL, Düsterloh A, Frei B, Köhrle J, Konz T, Lietz G, McCann A, Michels AJ, Molloy AM, Murakami H, Rein D, Saris WHM, Schmidt K, Shimbo K, Schumacher S, Vermeer C, Kaput J, Weber P, Eggersdorfer M and Rezzi S (2018). Micronutrient status assessment in humans: Current methods of analysis and future trends. Trends in Analytical Chemistry 102 (2018) 110-122

See also two previous recent scientific publications on micronutrients analysis from NIHS:

1. Konz T, Migliavacca E, Dayon L, Bowman G, Oikonomidi A, Popp J and Rezzi S (2017). ICP-MS/MS-based ionomics: A validated methodology to investigate the biological variability of the human ionome. J Proteome Res. 16(5):2080-2090.

2. Petruzziello F, Grand-Guillaume Perrenoud A, Thorimbert A, Fogwill M and Rezzi S (2017). Quantitative profiling of endogenous fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in human plasma using an improved UHPSFC-ESI-MS interface. Anal Chem 89(14):7615-7622.

For enquiries, please contact:
Laura Camurri, Communications, NIHS

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