Nuclear Techniques in Nutrition

Body Composition
Bone Mineral Density
Total Energy Expenditure
MAM Symposium 2014
Human Milk Intake
Vitamin A Body Pool Size
Iron Bioavailability
IAEA Nutrition Factsheets, Brochures & Multimedia Material
Peer-reviewed publications & useful links
Carbon-13 Breath Tests
Writing Skills
Environmental Enteric Dysfunction

NEW! Using stable isotope techniques in nutrition assessments and tracking of global targets post-2015


The IAEA’s work complements the work of other UN agencies, NGO’s and other major players in nutrition and health by encouraging use of nuclear techniques to develop and evaluate interventions to combat malnutrition in all its forms. These nuclear techniques, in particular stable (non-radioactive) isotope techniques, add value by improving the specificity and sensitivity of nutritional evaluations such as the assessment of body composition, bone mineral density, total daily energy expenditure, intake of human milk in breastfed infants, vitamin A status, and bioavailability of micronutrients from foods (see IAEA Nutrition Factsheet). These nuclear techniques are also used to assess the health effects of environmental factors such as environmental enteric dysfunction (EED); and the influence of changes in dietary and physical activity patterns on risk of overweight and obesity. Although stable isotope techniques have been used as research tools in nutrition for many years, the application of these techniques in programme development and evaluation is a relatively new approach where the IAEA has a unique opportunity to contribute technical expertise. The IAEA has fostered the more widespread use of these techniques in Member States through support to national and regional nutrition projects via the Technical Cooperation Programme and through Coordinated Research Projects addressing priority areas in nutrition over many years.

Nutrition activities at the IAEA are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically, but not limited to #2.1, 2.2, and 3.4); i.e., access to safe and nutritious foods for all, reduction in stunting by 40%, reducing and maintaining wasting at below 5%, and reduction of mortality from non-communicable diseases by one-third. These activities cover the entire life course with specific focus on: infant and young child nutrition, childhood obesity, adolescent and maternal nutrition, healthy ageing, in addition to diet quality and econutrition. Work in these areas is done in close collaboration with relevant partners to create synergies and complement ongoing research and evaluation activities with the use of stable isotope techniques that will add valuable information.

In 2016, St John’s Research Institute, Bangalore, India was redesignated as an IAEA Collaborating Centre for Nutrition. The Institute´s research focuses on nutrition as well as on infectious and lifestyle-related diseases, and is an excellent example of a centre where stable isotope technique is being used for nutrition-related research and programme evaluation.

This website provides easy access to IAEA documents on nuclear techniques in nutrition and will be updated as additional documents as well as e-learning modules become available.

Additional links:

IAEA news centre for human health and nutrition
IAEA web site for the nutrition and environmental studies section
IAEA Annual report for 2015

IAEA Coordinated Research Projects in nutrition
IAEA Technical Cooperation