Metabotypes of flavan-3-ol colonic metabolites after cranberry intake: elucidation and statistical approaches

Pedro Mena, Claudia Favari, Animesh Acharjee, Saisakul Chernbumroong, Letizia Bresciani, Claudio Curti, Furio Brighenti, Christian Heiss, Ana Rodriguez-mateos, Daniele Del Rio

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Purpose: Extensive inter-individual variability exists in the production of flavan-3-ol metabolites. Preliminary metabolic phenotypes (metabotypes) have been defined, but there is no consensus on the existence of metabotypes associated with the catabolism of catechins and proanthocyanidins. This study aims at elucidating the presence of different metabotypes in the urinary excretion of main flavan-3-ol colonic metabolites after consumption of cranberry products and at assessing the impact of the statistical technique used for metabotyping.

Methods: Data on urinary concentrations of phenyl-γ-valerolactones and 3-(hydroxyphenyl)propanoic acid derivatives from two human interventions has been used. Different multivariate statistics, principal component analysis (PCA), cluster analysis, and partial least square-discriminant analysis (PLS-DA), have been considered.

Results: Data pre-treatment plays a major role on resulting PCA models. Cluster analysis based on k-means and a final consensus algorithm lead to quantitative-based models, while the expectation–maximization algorithm and clustering according to principal component scores yield metabotypes characterized by quali-quantitative differences in the excretion of colonic metabolites. PLS-DA, together with univariate analyses, has served to validate the urinary metabotypes in the production of flavan-3-ol metabolites and to confirm the robustness of the methodological approach.

Conclusions: This work proposes a methodological workflow for metabotype definition and highlights the importance of data pre-treatment and clustering methods on the final outcomes for a given dataset. It represents an additional step toward the understanding of the inter-individual variability in flavan-3-ol metabolism.

Trial registration: The acute study was registered at as NCT02517775, August 7, 2015; the chronic study was registered at as NCT02764749, May 6, 2016.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Early online date9 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2021


  • Flavan-3-ols
  • Inter-individual variation
  • Metabotypes
  • Phenolic metabolites
  • Phenyl-γ-valerolactones


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