NutriExhalomics: Agroscope and ETH Zurich jointly Develop a Breath Test

Atem ETH NutriExhalomics
Photo: University Medicine Zurich – Zurich Exhalomics

“Now exhale, please.” What if, in future, the effect of certain foods on our health could be analysed via a simple breath test? This is the primary aim of the ‘NutriExhalomics’ Project, which is being launched as part of a new collaboration between Agroscope and ETH Zurich. 

The new cooperative project consists of a postdoctoral degree in Prof. Dr. Renato Zenobi’s working group at the ETH Zurich. The research group is part of the University Medicine Zurich (HMZ) flagship project ‘Zurich Exhalomics’, the aim of which is to develop a simple, non-invasive, inexpensive breath test providing real-time information on health status. 

Analysing the Effects of Food on Health

Agroscope's participation in the new "NutriExhalomics" project marks the introduction of a nutritional perspective. Agroscope is a leader in nutrimetabolomics, a modern analytical method for measuring human nutrition-specific metabolic molecules. The goal is for this technology identify these molecules in the exhaled breath of humans. In this way, the researchers hope to determine what effect foods have on the microbial communities in the gastrointestinal tract, and hence on the composition of the exhalome (the exhaled molecules). Research will focus in particular on the effect of fermented foods on health. 

“Until now, we’ve had to rely on blood and urine analyses, which are time-consuming and expensive. Thousands of different molecules can be measured directly and extremely quickly in exhaled breath” explains Fabian Wahl, Head of the ‘Food Microbial Systems’ Strategic Research Division at Agroscope. It is hoped that the technologies developed for the analysis of the human exhalome will ultimately also be applicable in veterinary research. 

Strengthening National Cooperation

“Close cooperation with ETH Zurich in this project enables participants to benefit mutually from their respective know-how. In this way, we come an important step closer to the vision of a quick, non-invasive analysis of the exhalome” enthuses Fabian Wahl. “I am hoping for a ‘biomatrix’ for nutritional research which would allow conclusions to be drawn as to the effects on health of certain foods. Thanks to this joint project, we are also strengthening cooperation with partners from nutritional and medical research in Switzerland.”

Further Information


Nutrition, Health

Since 2015, Agroscope has placed its emphasis in the food sector on microbial systems. In the Human Nutrition Division, the physical and biochemical effects of fermented or cultured foods (especially yoghurt and cheese) thus form the focus of research, with the aim of enabling the identification and evaluation of potential health benefits and risks.

Last modification 19.12.2019

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