Biomarkers of cereal food intake
Review article, 2019

Background/objectives: Cereal foods are major contributors to the daily energy, protein, and dietary fiber intake all over the world. The role of cereals in human health is dependent on whether they are consumed as refined or whole grain and on cereal species. To unravel the underlying mechanisms of health effects attributed to specific cereal foods and to provide more precise dietary advice, there is a need for improved dietary assessment of whole-grain intake. Dietary biomarkers of specific cereals, different fractions or cereal-containing foods could offer such a possibility. The aim of this review was to summarize the current status on biomarkers of different cereals, fractions, and specific cereal foods.

Subjects and methods: A literature review was conducted and putative biomarkers of different cereals and pseudo-cereals (wheat, oats, rye, barley, rice, and quinoa) as well as for different grain fractions (whole grain, refined grain, bran) and foods were summarized and discussed.

Results: Several putative biomarkers have been suggested for different cereals, due to their unique presence in these grains. Among the biomarkers, odd-numbered alkylresorcinols are the most well-studied and -evaluated biomarkers and reflect whole-grain wheat and rye intake. Even-numbered alkylresorcinols have been suggested to reflect quinoa intake. Recent studies have also highlighted the potential of avenanthramides and avenacosides as specific biomarkers of oat intake, and a set of biomarkers have been suggested to reflect rice bran intake. However, there are yet no specific biomarkers of refined grains. Most biomarker candidates remain to be evaluated in controlled interventions and free-living populations before applied as biomarkers of intake in food and health studies.

Conclusion: Several putative biomarkers of different cereals have been suggested and should be validated in human studies using recently developed food intake biomarker validation criteria.


Phenolic acids




Whole grain

Cinnamic acids




Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

Kati Hanhineva

University of Eastern Finland

Kieran Tuohy

The Edmund Mach Foundation

Mar Garcia-Aloy

Institute of Health Carlos III

University of Barcelona

Izabela Biskup

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

Rafael Llorach

University of Barcelona

Institute of Health Carlos III

Xiaofei Yin

University College Dublin

Lorraine Brennan

University College Dublin

Marjukka Kolehmainen

University of Eastern Finland

Genes and Nutrition

1555-8932 (ISSN) 18653499 (eISSN)

Vol. 14 1 28

Subject Categories

Food Science

Clinical Science

Nutrition and Dietetics





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