Friday, June 28, 2013

I Know What You Ate This Summer

Despite active foodstagramming and foodteresting, and eagerness to show pictures of meals and diet reports to friends on social media, we don't really want others to know everything we eat. But they might know anyway.

Why worry about NSA, when Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others know what we might be eating. Cameras record our ways to groceries and restaurants, credit cards record our purchases, food chains know our weaknesses, clothes shops know how, as a result, our pant sizes change over time. One day phones will know what we ate too.  As both short- and long-term diets change our breath-prints - creating signature metabolites in exhaled breath.

A recent Dutch study actually looked at what gluten-free eating does to our breath. Just 4 week of dieting lead to remarkable - though reversible -  differences. (As detected in 20 healthy individuals by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (TD-GC-tof-MS) in combination with chemometric analysis ). A set of twelve volatile compounds that distinguish gluten-free eaters along with information from Aurametrix knowledgebase is listed in the table below.

Compound Odor Notes
2-butanol strong alcoholic 1-Butanol smells like permanent marker (Sharpie) 
octane Gasoline-like, car exhaust octyl chloride smells faintly of oranges
2-propyl-1 pentanol green banana 1-Pentanol smells like paint thinner 
nonanal strong fruity or floral attracts mosquitoes
dihydro-4-methyl-2(3H)-furanone strong coconut aroma 5-butyl-4-methyloxolan-2-one is known as "whisky lactone"
nonanoic acid rancid beer, old cooking oil armpits of males over 30
dodecanal Soapy, waxy, aldehydic, citrus, orange rindy with floral nuances Pure, synthetic qualities of this fatty aldehyde are used in traces in perfumery for "fresh laundry"-like effects.

Baranska A, Tigchelaar E, Smolinska A, Dallinga JW, Moonen EJ, Dekens JA, Wijmenga C, Zhernakova A, & van Schooten FJ (2013). Profile of volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath changes as a result of gluten-free diet. Journal of breath research, 7 (3) PMID: 23774130


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