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Background: Metabolite profiling of blood by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is invaluable to clinical biomarker discovery. To ensure robustness, biomarkers require validation in large cohorts and across multiple centres. However, collection procedures are known to impact on the stability of biofluids that may, in turn, degrade biomarker signals. We trialled three blood collection tubes with the aim of solving technical challenges due to preanalytical variation in blood metabolite levels that are common in cohort studies. Methods: We first investigated global NMR-based metabolite variability between biobanks, including the large-scale UK Biobank and TwinsUK biobank of the general UK population, and more targeted biobanks derived from multicentre clinical trials relating to inflammatory bowel disease. We then compared the blood metabolome of 12 healthy adult volunteers when collected into either sodium fluoride/potassium oxalate, lithium heparin, or serum blood tubes using different pre-processing parameters. Results: Preanalytical variation in the method of blood collection strongly influences metabolite composition within and between biobanks. This variability can largely be attributed to glucose and lactate. In the healthy control cohort, the fluoride oxalate collection tube prevented fluctuation in glucose and lactate levels for 24 hours at either 4 °C or room temperature (20 °C). Conclusions: Blood collection into a fluoride oxalate collection tube appears to preserve the blood metabolome with delayed processing up to 24 hours at 4 °C. This method may be considered as an alternative when rapid processing is not feasible.

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