Diets rich in berries provide health benefits, however, the contribution of berry phytochemicals to the human metabolome is largely unknown. The present study aimed to establish the impact of berry phytochemicals on the human metabolome. A “systematic review strategy” was utilized to characterize the phytochemical composition of the berries most commonly consumed in the USA; (poly)phenols, primarily anthocyanins, comprised the majority of reported plant secondary metabolites. A reference standard library and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) quantitative metabolomics methodology were developed and applied to serum/plasma samples from a blueberry and a strawberry intervention, revealing a diversity of benzoic, cinnamic, phenylacetic, 3-(phenyl)propanoic and hippuric acids, and benzyldehydes. 3-Phenylpropanoic, 2-hydroxybenzoic, and hippuric acid were highly abundant (mean > 1 µM). Few metabolites at concentrations above 100 nM changed significantly in either intervention. Significant intervention effects (p
< 0.05) were observed for plasma/serum 2-hydroxybenzoic acid and hippuric acid in the blueberry intervention, and for 3-methoxyphenylacetic acid and 4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid in the strawberry intervention. However, significant within-group effects for change from baseline were prevalent, suggesting that high inter-individual variability precluded significant treatment effects. Berry consumption in general appears to cause a fluctuation in the pools of small molecule metabolites already present at baseline, rather than the appearance of unique berry-derived metabolites, which likely reflects the ubiquitous nature of (poly)phenols in the background diet.
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