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Stable Isotopes In Nutritional Studies


Stable isotopes are very useful tools which are used extensively in scientific research. Within the field of nutritional studies stable isotopes are used for studying the flow of nutrients through the human body. Since they are safe and non-radioactive they can even be used in infants and pregnant women.

Compounds containing stable isotopes can be identified and measured using the molecular weight of the compound. This is because it will differ from that of the original compound. Using an instrument called a mass spectrometer, researchers can use this weight difference to trace the stable isotopes as they travel through the body and appear in blood, urine, breath, and stool samples.

The first paper published that described the use of a stable isotope tracer in a human metabolic study was in 1963. Today, there are four commonly studied isotopes used in nutrition studies, which include calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Calcium Isotopes are used at length in clinical research studies. Calcium has six stable isotopes, which include 40Ca, 42Ca, 43Ca, 44Ca, 46Ca and 48Ca. They are used to measure calcium absorption mainly in women and children. In adults, calcium deficiency is strongly related to increasing severity of osteoporosis. In children, calcium deficiency is primarily related to the development of rickets. (S.A. Abrams and W.W. Wong, Stable Isotopes in Human Nutrition, 2003).

There are four stable Iron Isotopes: 54Fe, 56Fe, 57Fe and 58Fe. The two most commonly used isotopes in nutritional studies are 57Fe and 58Fe. One study, conducted by the University of Iowa and the University of Texas (Samuel J. Fomon et al., January 2003) involved the use of 58Fe to study iron-loss by human adolescents. The investigators were able to estimate inevitable iron loss by adolescents because total body iron of the adolescents had been enriched with the stable isotope, 58Fe, as the result of earlier studies of iron absorption. At the conclusion of this study, they were able to estimate the requirement for absorbed iron.


The consequences of magnesium deficiency are more difficult to identify which can be associated with the difficulties of conducting stable magnesium isotope studies. There are only two stable Magnesium Isotopes: 25Mg and 26Mg are regularly used in studies. It is known that magnesium is important in bone and muscle function. Deficiency conditions have been associated with disorders including bone loss, diabetes and neurological impairment (Rude, 1998).

There are five stable Zinc Isotopes: 64Zn, 66Zn, 67Zn, 68Zn and 70Zn. The three most commonly used isotopes in nutritional studies are 67Zn, 68Zn and 70Zn. There are many studies being conducted in areas including the deficiency of zinc in children in developing countries and absorption rates of zinc. A deficiency of zinc can cause poor growth, reduced resistance to infections, and life-threatening bouts of diarrhea and pneumonia.


Trace Sciences can provide all of the above isotopes mentioned. We are the only
supplier who can supply high-enriched 43Ca and 48Ca for nutritional studies. We also supply a full range of isotopes for other fields of scientific research. Please contact us for more information and refer to our Stable Isotopes page for acomplete overview of our products.

Please note that our material has not been approved for use in humans as it has not been tested for sterility or pyrogens.