Metabolomics provides a comprehensive assessment of numerous small molecules in biological samples. As it integrates the effects of exogenous exposures, endogenous metabolism, and genetic variation, metabolomics is well-suited for studies examining metabolic profiles associated with a variety of chronic diseases. In this review, we summarize the studies that have characterized the effects of various pre-analytical factors on both targeted and untargeted metabolomic studies involving human plasma, serum, and urine and were published through 14 January 2019. A standardized protocol was used for extracting data from full-text articles identified by searching PubMed and EMBASE. For plasma and serum samples, metabolomic profiles were affected by fasting status, hemolysis, collection time, processing delays, particularly at room temperature, and repeated freeze/thaw cycles. For urine samples, collection time and fasting, centrifugation conditions, filtration and the use of additives, normalization procedures and multiple freeze/thaw cycles were found to alter metabolomic findings. Consideration of the effects of pre-analytical factors is a particularly important issue for epidemiological studies where samples are often collected in nonclinical settings and various locations and are subjected to time and temperature delays prior being to processed and frozen for storage.
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