Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios predict intake of sweeteners in a Yup'ik study population

Sarah H. Nash, Alan R. Kristal, Andrea Bersamin, Scarlett E. Hopkins, Bert B. Boyer, Diane M. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) is elevated in corn- and cane sugar-based foods and has recently shown associations with sweetener intake in multiple U.S. populations. However, a high carbon isotope ratio is not specific to corn- and sugar canebased sweeteners, as other foods, including meats and fish, also have elevated δ13C. This study examines whether the inclusion of a second marker, the nitrogen isotope ratio (δ15N), can control for confounding dietary effects on d13C and improve the validity of isotopic markers of sweetener intake. The study participants are from the Yup'ik population of southwest Alaska and consume large and variable amounts of fish and marine mammals known to have elevated carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios. Sixty-eight participants completed 4 weekly 24-h recalls followed by a blood draw. RBC δ13C and dδ15N were used to predict sweetener intake, including total sugars, added sugars, and sugar-sweetened beverages. A model including both δ13C and δ15N explained more than 3 times as much of the variation in sweetener intake than did a model using only δ13C. Because carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios are simultaneously determined in a single, highthroughput analysis, this dual isotope marker provides a simple method to improve the validity of stable isotope markers of sweetener intake with no additional cost. We anticipate that this multi-isotope approach will have utility in any population where a stable isotope biomarker is elevated in several food groups and there are appropriate "covariate" isotopes to control for intake of foods not of research interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-165
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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