Our body is composed of different elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous. Stable isotopes are atoms of a single element with a slightly different mass.
Since the atoms from food become part of our bodies, the distinct ratios of stable isotopes in our bodies can show us what people actually eat
These naturally occurring isotopes are harmless and not radioactive, and the ratio of stable isotopes varies in the food people eat. Certain foods have a very distinct ratio. Since the atoms from food become part of our bodies, the distinct ratios of stable isotopes in our bodies can show us what people actually eat.
Stable isotope techniques can be used to test how well or how badly a community eats. The techniques involve making the population test group answer questions regarding what they eat and in what quantities, and then taking hair and blood samples from the tested subjects to validate this information by looking for markers that indicate stable isotopes. This shows how the population captures the nutrients in certain diets and how their diet may be improved or supplemented. It is a non-invasive and safe technique that does not involve radiation.
These techniques help scientists to determine whether the right amounts of micronutrients are received, utilized and retained by the body; to establish the amount of lean tissue and fat in body composition; and to estimate the number of calories spent each day.
This technique is especially useful in the case of populations with high rates of malnutrition
Introducing changes where needed
Compared to other conventional techniques, stable isotope marker analyses offer much more sensitive and specific measurements that help evaluate nutritional and lifestyle interventions, and that way create food fortification, healthy eating and physical activity programmes for the population.
This technique is especially useful in the case of populations with high rates of malnutrition. Malnutrition can take place when the diet is scarce and also when it is excessive, and thus it exists in the third world as well as in developed countries.