Reconstructing food consumption with FRUITS


Ricardo Fernandes, alumnus of the Graduate School and now a post-doctoral fellow at the Universities of Kiel and Cambridge, has developed a Bayesian mathematical model for the analysis of dietary habits.

Reconstructing food consumption with FRUITS

The analysis of dietary habits – be it recent or ancient, be it of humans or animals – is a vital part of many scientific projects. The model is called Food Reconstruction Using Isotopic Transferred Signals (FRUITS, logo shown above). It comes as a user-friendly software that is capable of providing dietary estimates. PLOS ONE published a paper by Ricardo and his co-authors Andrew R. Millard, Marek Brabec, Marie-Josée Nadeau and Pieter Grootes about FRUITS on February 13.

“FRUITS compares chemical, usually isotopic, signatures measured in potential food groups with those measured in consumer tissues (e.g. bone, flesh, hair, etc)”, Ricardo explains. “The chemical signatures in a consumer are the result of the mixing of the dietary sources consumed in different proportions. Using Bayesian statistics to analyze food and consumer data, FRUITS is capable of separating the contributions of the different food groups.”

The model has recently been applied for manifold purposes, such as reconstructing the dietary habits of Neolithic populations in northern Germany, identifying the origins of nutrients in marine food webs, and for studying the origins of gut microbial community structure within mice. Ricardo regards FRUITS as applicable in many fields of research, e.g. ecology, archaeology, forensics, or dietary physics.

Text: Jirka N. Menke