Foodomics with GCxGC-TOFMS and NMR


Foodomics is an innovative and multidisciplinary approach that integrates various scientific disciplines such as metabolomics, proteomics, lipidomics, and genomics to comprehensively study the complex interactions between food and its impact on human health. At its core, foodomics aims to uncover the intricate relationships between dietary components, their molecular compositions, and the physiological responses they trigger within the human body.

In TMIC, we use cutting-edge technologies and equipment to provide analytical services that are assisting the food and beverage industry to produce higher quality, more sustainable, and improved nutritious food. We are also housing the world’s most comprehensive database resource on food constituents, chemistry, and biology, FooDB. Last month, TMIC’s works on food analysis were also highlighted on the Genome Alberta website: The Secret to the Perfect Recipe is Understanding your Ingredients.


In this article, we focus on projects analyzed by the Comprehensive Two-Dimensional Gas Chromatography (GCxGC) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) which serves as a powerful analytical tool within the foodomics framework.

GCxGC-TOF-MS allows us to achieve an unprecedented level of separation and detection by combining two different separation dimensions. This analytical technique enhances the resolution of complex mixtures in food samples, enabling the identification and quantification of a wide range of volatile and semi-volatile compounds, as well as compounds that can be derivatized with standard chemistries, allowing us to also detect simple sugars, sterols and larger molecules. Aside from simple liquid injections of extracts, a wide range of injection methods are available including solid-phase microextraction, static headspace, dynamic headspace, and thermal desorption. This allows us to easily handle a wide variety of sample types including soil, water, oil/petroleum, air samples, plants, food and beverages, breath, and biofluids (ie. urine, plasma, etc).

NMR spectroscopy is non-destructive, unbiased, easily quantifiable, requires little to no sample preparation, has no need for chemical derivatization, and is the “gold standard” for the identification of novel compounds. In addition, it is easily automatable and exceptionally reproducible, and as such automated high-throughput metabolomics with NMR is more feasible and reliable then LC-MS or GC-MS. Plus, the compounds that can be challenging for LC-MS analysis, such as sugars, organic acids, alcohols, polyols, and other highly polar compounds, can be detected and characterized using NMR. It is also well suited for probing living cells, tissues, and organs (metabolic flux and metabolic imaging studies). Current advances in electronics, magnet shielding, and cryo-technology are making NMR instruments smaller, cheaper, easier to maintain, and more clinically compatible.

With both instruments, we can delve into the intricate composition of foods, deciphering the profiles of flavor compounds, nutrients, contaminants, and bioactive molecules. This deeper insight provided by the analyses in advancing our understanding of the intricate interplay between food composition and human health, ultimately guiding the development of healthier and more tailored dietary choices.

Newest Research on Fermented Milk, Kefir

The fermentation process of the kefir consortium differs significantly from the traditional grain fermentation of kefir in terms of the types of metabolites it produces. This variation appears to be primarily influenced by lactobacilli, as indicated by the substantial reduction in several metabolites when lactobacilli were excluded from the fermentation. In contrast, minimal differences were observed when yeast was removed from the fermentation process. Read more details about this project: Use of reconstituted kefir consortia to determine the impact of microbial composition on kefir metabolite profiles

Other Food Projects
Various Food related Projects with GCxGC- TOFMS and NMR. Image by Ryland Giebelhaus (Harynuk Node). TMIC also deploys machine learning, artificial intelligence, and chemometrics into the data processing.

Below is the series of food-related projects using GCxGC and NMR, in chronological order by Harynuk Node. Thanks to Ryan Dias for organizing these projects.

  • Canola:

Infection of canola by the root pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae increases resistance to aboveground herbivory by bertha armyworm, Mamestra configurata Walker (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

  • Sourdough (colony and bread):

Multivariate Optimization Procedure for Dynamic Headspace Extractions Coupled to GC(×GC)

  • Blueberries:

Improved sample storage, preparation and extraction of blueberry aroma volatile organic compounds for gas chromatography

  • Olive oil:

Detection of common adulterants in olive oils by bench top 60 MHz 1H NMR with partial least squares regression

LC-MS based Assays

We also have many projects on food analysis with LC-MS-based assays. Check out more in the article, It’s All About Food.

Targeted Analysis

  1. Food Composition Assay: Identification and quantification of 169 different metabolites commonly present in various food samples, including lipids, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, organic acids, biogenic amines, acylcarnitines, phosphatidylcholines, lysoPCs, sphingomyelins, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, and sugars  
  2. Food Composition Assay – Minerals:  Identification and quantification of 50 different metals commonly present in various food samples e.g. macronutrient metal ions, micronutrient metal ions, and trace metals
  3. Low-Molecular Weight Sugars Assay: Quantification of 14 low molecular weight sugars by UPLC-MRM-MS.
  4. Vitamins Assays: Fat-Soluble Vitamins Assay and Water-Soluble Vitamin Assay

Untargeted Analysis

  • Global (Untargeted) Metabolomics by Chemical Isotope Labeling LC-MS increases metabolome coverage and achieves accurate quantification for all detectable metabolites. The whole metabolome is analyzed by combining the analysis of four submetabolomes: amine/phenol, carboxyl, carbonyl and hydroxyl submetabolome. The combined results from four channels are able to cover 85% to 95% of the entire chemical space of the metabolome. (Zhao S. et al., Anal. Chem. 2019, 91, 12108−12115
  • Global (Untargeted) Lipidomics Profiling uses a cutting-edge method to analyze the lipidome in both positive and negative ionization. It typically detects, identifies and relatively quantifies more than 5,000 lipids for positive ionization and more than 2,000 lipids for negative ionization. Approximately 1,000 lipids can be typically identified by MS/MS, while 3000 to 5000 lipids can be putatively identified by accurate mass-match.
Mycotoxins Assay

Starting from September 2023, TMIC offers a new mycotoxins assay based on LC-MS. It is a fully-quantitative analysis of 17 mycotoxins in biofluids by Liquid Chromatography- High Resolution Mass Spectrometry. It is also available for semi-quantitative analysis of primary mycotoxin metabolites.

Mycotoxin analysis serves as a critical tool in ensuring the safety and quality of food products. The food industry heavily relies on mycotoxin analysis to detect and quantify these toxic compounds, which can contaminate various agricultural products. By accurately detecting and quantifying mycotoxins in various food matrices, this analytical approach provides essential data for the comprehensive analysis of toxins produced by certain molds (fungi) that can be found in foods. Ultimately, mycotoxins analysis helps build consumer trust, as it demonstrates a commitment to delivering safe and high-quality food products, which is crucial for a thriving and reputable food industry.

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