The ability to phenotype metabolic profiles in serum has increased substantially in recent years with the advent of metabolomics. Metabolomics is the study of the metabolome, defined as those molecules with an atomic mass less than 1.5 kDa. There are two main metabolomics methods: mass spectrometry (MS) and proton nuclear magnetic resonance ((1)H NMR) spectroscopy, each with its respective benefits and limitations. MS has greater sensitivity and so can detect many more metabolites. However, its cost (especially when heavy labelled internal standards are required for absolute quantitation) and quality control is sub-optimal for large cohorts. (1)H NMR is less sensitive but sample preparation is generally faster and analysis times shorter, resulting in markedly lower analysis costs. (1)H NMR is robust, reproducible and can provide absolute quantitation of many metabolites. Of particular relevance to cardio-metabolic disease is the ability of (1)H NMR to provide detailed quantitative data on amino acids, fatty acids and other metabolites as well as lipoprotein subparticle concentrations and size. Early epidemiological studies suggest promise, however, this is an emerging field and more data is required before we can determine the clinical utility of these measures to improve disease prediction and treatment. This review describes the theoretical basis of (1)H NMR; compares MS and (1)H NMR and provides a tabular overview of recent (1)H NMR-based research findings in the atherosclerosis field, describing the design and scope of studies conducted to date. (1)H NMR metabolomics-CVD related research is emerging, however further large, robustly conducted prospective, genetic and intervention studies are needed to advance research on CVD risk prediction and to identify causal pathways amenable to intervention.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





287 - 300


Advanced lipoprotein testing (ALP), Biomarkers, Cardiovascular disease (CVD), Lipoprotein, Mass spectrometry (MS), Metabolomics, Nuclear magnetic resonance ((1)H NMR), Biomarkers, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cardiovascular System, Exercise, Humans, Lipoproteins, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Mass Spectrometry, Metabolomics, Metformin, Reproducibility of Results