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The Importance of Quality Management in Assessing Body Composition

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Participants analyse saliva samples using the new FTIR spectrometry equipment. (Photo: H. Mulol)

For decades, specialists in nutrition have worked to refine the techniques to understand the composition of body weight and differentiate lean mass from fat mass. The amount of fat mass in the human body is a key contributing factor for developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  

The IAEA promotes the widespread use of stable isotope techniques to assess body composition in different population groups to address priority areas of national public health nutrition, in particular the increasing prevalence of NCDs. “One of the IAEA’s objectives is to strengthen the quality assurance framework for the use of stable isotopes to measure body composition in IAEA Member States to better support national, regional and interregional nutrition projects” said Cornelia Loechl, Section Head of IAEA’s Nutrition Section.

Ms Loechl was speaking as public health and nutrition specialists from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America, who frequently serve as IAEA technical experts and lecturers, met last week at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna to update their knowledge and harmonize their technical support. They reviewed the procedures of the deuterium dilution technique for assessing body composition, familiarised themselves with new portable Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometry equipment, and prepared guidelines on the criteria for evaluating body composition data measured by the deuterium dilution method. “Teaching and managing quality assurance frameworks for the use of the deuterium dilution technique is an essential component of building capacities in IAEA Member States to ensure accuracy and reliability of the results and strengthen the validity of outcomes,” said Ms. Loechl.

Twelve specialists attended the meeting. “In order to have confidence in the results, and ensure that they are comparable internationally in between countries, minimum criteria for quality assurance must be fulfilled,” said Eleuterio Umpierrez Vazquez from the Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay. “The definition of clear and useful quality criteria and harmonizing them will guarantee reliable results.” Bee Koon Poh, from the Kebangsaan University in Malaysia commented on the importance of meeting as an inter-regional networking opportunity, adding, “we have made new friends from around the world who have expertise in different areas of the deuterium dilution technique.”

The experts encouraged the IAEA to repeat the training of trainers at regular intervals and expressed their appreciation of the efforts to improve the quality of data.

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