Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in the study of metabolism has been immensely popular in medical- and health-related research but has yet to be widely applied to more fundamental biological problems. This review provides some NMR background relevant to metabolism, describes why 1H NMR spectra are complex as well as introducing relevant terminology and definitions. The applications and practical considerations of NMR metabolic profiling and 13C NMR-based flux analyses are discussed together with the elegant ‘enzyme trap’ approach for identifying novel metabolic pathway intermediates. The importance of sample preparation and data analysis are also described and explained with reference to data precision and multivariate analysis to introduce researchers unfamiliar with NMR and metabolism to consider this technique for their research interests. Finally, a brief glance into the future suggests NMR-based metabolism has room to expand in the 21st century through new isotope labels, and NMR technologies and methodologies.

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