Serum carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes as potential biomarkers of dietary intake and their relation with incident type 2 diabetes: the EPIC-Norfolk study.Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100(2):708-18AJ
Stable-isotope ratios of carbon (¹³C/¹²C, expressed as δ¹³C) and nitrogen (¹⁵N/¹⁴N, or δ¹⁵N) have been proposed as potential nutritional biomarkers to distinguish between meat, fish, and plant-based foods.
The objective was to investigate dietary correlates of δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N and examine the association of these biomarkers with incident type 2 diabetes in a prospective study.
Serum δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N (‰) were measured by using isotope ratio mass spectrometry in a case-cohort study (n = 476 diabetes cases; n = 718 subcohort) nested within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk population-based cohort. We examined dietary (food-frequency questionnaire) correlates of δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N in the subcohort. HRs and 95% CIs were estimated by using Prentice-weighted Cox regression.
Mean (±SD) δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N were -22.8 ± 0.4‰ and 10.2 ± 0.4‰, respectively, and δ¹³C (r = 0.22) and δ¹⁵N (r = 0.20) were positively correlated (P < 0.001) with fish protein intake. Animal protein was not correlated with δ¹³C but was significantly correlated with δ¹⁵N (dairy protein: r = 0.11; meat protein: r = 0.09; terrestrial animal protein: r = 0.12, P ≤ 0.013). δ¹³C was inversely associated with diabetes in adjusted analyses (HR per tertile: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.65, 0.83; P-trend < 0.001], whereas δ¹⁵N was positively associated (HR: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.38; P-trend = 0.001).
The isotope ratios δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N may both serve as potential biomarkers of fish protein intake, whereas only δ¹⁵N may reflect broader animal-source protein intake in a European population. The inverse association of δ¹³C but a positive association of δ¹⁵N with incident diabetes should be interpreted in the light of knowledge of dietary intake and may assist in identifying dietary components that are associated with health risks and benefits.