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Open Access Nuclear and isotopic techniques for addressing nutritional problems, with special reference to current applications in developing countries

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Nuclear and isotopic techniques are valuable tools in human nutritional research studies. Isotopes, both radioactive and nonradioactive, enable detailed evaluations of nutrient intake, body composition, energy expenditure, status of micronutrients, and nutrient bioavailability. In recent times, isotopic methods have been widely used in a number of coordinated research projects and technical cooperation projects of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nutrition Programme. The doubly labeled water technique combines the use of the stable isotopes oxygen-18 and hydrogen-2 (deuterium) to measure total energy expenditure in free-living human subjects, and to investigate the magnitude and causes of both undernutrition and the emergence of obesity in developing countries. The deuterium dilution technique is a reliable tool to measure breastmilk intake and thereby infant growth and development. In collaboration with the World Health Organization's Growth Monitoring Program, this technique is being used to generate new data on growth standards for children in developing countries. This technique is also used in the measurement of body composition by the estimation of lean body mass and fat mass in individuals. Stable isotopes of iron and zinc have been successfully used to assess the nutritional impact of several nationwide food supplementationprograms conducted on pregnant and lactating women and children in both industrialized and developing countries. Isotopic techniques are especially suitable for monitoring changes in body composition, energy metabolism, and mineral status (with particular reference to osteoporosis) in the elderly. Nuclear methods have also served to develop models for a physiological reference man in Asia in support of radiological health and safety issues, for establishing elemental composition of foods, and for measurement of pollutants in the environment.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2002

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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