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Doctoral defence: Nele Taba “Diet, blood metabolites, and health”

On 9 September at 12:15 Nele Taba will defend her doctoral thesis “Diet, blood metabolites, and health” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Biomedicine).

Professor Krista Fischer, University of Tartu
Professor Tõnu Esko, University of Tartu
Nicola Pirastu, University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
Professor Andres Metspalu, University of Tartu

Professor Hannelore Daniel, Technical University of Munich (Germany)


Understanding the mechanisms of how diet affects health has the potential to provide grounds for personalized health-improving dietary advice. One possible option to enlighten the diet-disease interplay is to examine the blood metabolic profile, since it is known to be on the one hand affected by diet and on the other hand predictive of several health outcomes. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to shed more light on how diet affects health by examining the metabolic profile of blood. Firstly, we studied the possibly causal effect of dietary choices on blood metabolites by using the method of Mendelian Randomization (MR). We demonstrated that MR approach is suitable for analyzing the effect of diet by our results agreeing with previous randomized trials and conflicting with some observational studies. In total we detected 413 potentially causal associations. For example, we found that coffee and alcohol traits pose similar elevating effects on measurements related to low-density and intermediate-density lipoproteins, whereas the measurements related to very-low-density lipoproteins seem to be elevated by coffee consumption and not by alcohol consumption. Secondly, we investigated the associations between food neophobia (FN) and blood metabolites, and found that FN is negatively associated with measurements related to omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, the analysis of the effect of FN on type II diabetes and coronary heart disease yielded conflicting results between the two cohorts studied and the risk-elevating effects remain to be confirmed by future research. Thirdly, we examined whether blood metabolic profile is indicative of underlying biological age (BA), and whether the excess of such BA over the chronological age is predictive of health outcomes. We found that the metabolites-based BA can be population-specific, and is associated with cardiovascular risk factors. Further, our results propose that the metabolites-based BA can be associated with dietary behavior. In conclusion, our findings provide new knowledge about the diet, metabolites and health interplay and by this forms a basis for future randomized trials that can ultimately lead to well-informed personalized dietary recommendations.

The defence will be also held in Zoom: ID: 944 5177 6959, Passcode: 552125.

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