Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NMR and Metabolomics –A Roadmap for the Future



Tracey Schock, David Wishart, Leo Cheng, Valerie Copie, Arthur Edison, Hamid Eghbalnia, Jeffrey Hoch, Goncalo Gouveia, Wimal Pathmasiri, Robert Powers, Llyod Sumner, Mario Uchimiya


Metabolomics investigates global metabolic alterations associated with chemical, biological, physiological, or pathological processes. These metabolic changes are measured with various analytical platforms. While liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) methods are becoming increasingly popular in the field of metabolomics (accounting for more than 70% of published metabolomics studies to date), there are still considerable benefits to NMR-based methods for metabolomic studies. In fact, according to PubMed more than 830 papers on NMR-based metabolomics were published in 2020 – the most ever published in a given year. This suggests that NMR-based metabolomics continues to grow and has plenty to offer to the scientific community. This perspective outlines the growing utility of NMR in metabolomics and provides a roadmap for future advancements. NMR spectroscopy has several unique advantages over the other metabolomic platforms.1, 2 Its non-destructive, unbiased, easily quantifiable, requires little to no sample preparation, no need for chemical derivatization, and it is the "gold standard" for the identification of novel compounds. Furthermore, NMR is easily automatable and exceptionally reproducible, making automated high throughput metabolomics studies much more feasible and reliable with NMR compared to LC-MS or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). In addition to these strengths, NMR is particularly amenable to detecting and characterizing compounds that can be challenging for LC-MS analysis, such as sugars, organic acids, alcohols, polyols and other highly polar compounds. LC-MS is limited to detecting compounds that readily ionize, which is further diminished by ion-suppression common to complex, heterogenous mixtures. Furthermore, NMR is highly amenable to metabolic flux and imaging studies, and ideally suited for probing living cells, tissues, and organs. NMR has become the preferred route to measure plasma lipoprotein and cholesterol classes. Most significantly and unique from MS-based approaches, NMR-based metabolomics profiles of human diseases has the potential to be implemented in the clinic for the in vivo evaluation of patients using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners widely available in hospitals.3 Advances in NMR magnet technology are making NMR instruments smaller, cheaper, easier to maintain, and more clinically compatible. Advancements in magnet technology is also leading to higher field strengths than previously possible. In short, NMR has the potential to transform the field of metabolomics, yet its potential has barely been tapped. We believe it is time to awaken the sleeping giant.


Metabolomics, NMR, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance


Schock, T. , Wishart, D. , Cheng, L. , Copie, V. , Edison, A. , Eghbalnia, H. , Hoch, J. , Gouveia, G. , Pathmasiri, W. , Powers, R. , Sumner, L. and Uchimiya, M. (2022), NMR and Metabolomics –A Roadmap for the Future, Metabolites, [online],, (Accessed May 27, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created July 23, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022