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Researchers Publish 'Cookbook' To Ease Nutrition Studies

Armen Hareyan's picture

Nutrition Cookbook

Nutrition scientists finally have a 'cookbook' to refer to when conducting high-tech studies using stable-isotope tracers, courtesy of two Baylor College of Medicine researchers who are renowned experts in the field.

"Because stable isotopes are safe and relatively easy to use, their use in nutrition research has grown tremendously over the past 20 years," said Dr. William Wong, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "However, until we wrote this handbook, scientists had to search through published research papers to find information on dosage, sample preparation and mathematical procedures for each type of study they wished to conduct. Clearly a 'single source' for information was needed."

Wong co-authored the handbook, "Stable Isotopes in Human Nutrition," with Dr. Steven Abrams, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor. Both are research scientists at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center, a joint program of BCM and Texas Children's Hospital.

The cookbook provides information on the production of stable isotopes and their use in mineral-, protein-, glucose-, cholesterol-, and fat-metabolism studies, and studies of nutrient bioavailability and energy utilization. Written for nutrition researchers and students, the handbook is available from CABI Publishing.

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"Stable isotopes readily give us important information about the body's metabolic workings that might otherwise be expensive and cumbersome, if not impossible, to obtain," Wong said.

For example, the doubly labeled water method, which Wong helped perfect, is the only method available for capturing how many calories people burn during normal, everyday life.

"The doubly labeled water method requires only that study volunteers drink a small amount of stable-isotope labeled water and collect a sample of their saliva each day for about a week. As a result, we get very accurate information about how much energy they routinely expend as they go about their normal, everyday routines," Wong said.

Because the number of calories a child burns over the course of a week is closely tied to their physical activity routines, the doubly labeled water method is becoming an important research tool in the battle against childhood obesity.

"Metabolic studies using stable isotopes are among the most effective tools we have for understanding how the food and nutrients that children and adults eat affect the development and treatment of health problems like obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease," Wong said. "But until now, finding information about how to conduct these studies was difficult to find."