FAAS food for thought: Essential elements

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  • Published: Dec 15, 2016
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: Atomic
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Straight sequence

A new, straightforward sequential approach based on flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS) allows scientists to quickly and accurately determine concentrations of essential and mineral elements, copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, and zinc, in beverages, herbal infusions and dietary supplements.

A new, straightforward sequential approach based on high-resolution continuum source flame atomic absorption spectrometry (HR-CS FAAS) allows scientists to quickly and accurately determine concentrations of essential and mineral elements, copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, and zinc, in beverages, herbal infusions and dietary supplements.

Numerous metals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc are essential to life. Magnesium, for instance, is the fourth most abundant element in our bodies and has a role in many well-known biochemical processes as do calcium and iron. Manganese plays a part in development, metabolism and the antioxidant system, copper needed by several enzymes, and zinc is critical to the activity of more than 3000 proteins. The role of silicon is not clear although deficiency of any and all of these elements can lead to disease while excesses likewise cause problems.

Elemental beverage

Different beverages such as fruit drinks and tea provide some of the metallic elements we need and many people turn to dietary supplements to boost their intake, perhaps needlessly except in cases of malnutrition or deficiency. Either way it is useful to have analytical tools available to researchers and food scientists to investigate concentrations of specific elements in samples of food, drink, and supplements for a variety of reasons in healthcare and nutrition and for research purposes. Now, Beatriz Gómez-Nieto, Mª Jesús Gismera, Mª Teresa Sevilla, and Jesús R. Procopio of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, in Spain, have successfully developed a new FAAS approach to the sequential analysis of several important metal elements found in beverages and supplements.

Spectral lines

The team explains that the main FAAS absorption lines of copper, silicon and zinc, and secondary lines for magnesium and manganese were used for the measurements. Un-pretreated samples were introduced into the instrument using a flow injection system and a mere 3.5 millilitres of sample was needed for the tests. The approach based on selecting out the main and secondary lines means that there is no need to undertake different procedures to prepare samples and no additional dilutions are required despite the very different concentrations of each element that is likely to be present in any given sample. Not only could the team measure the most well-known "biological" elements, but they could also assess silicon concentrations, something that has been considered problematic in atomic techniques for food analysis until now.

Related Links

Food Chem 2017, 219, 69-75: "Determination of essential elements in beverages, herbal infusions and dietary supplements using a new straightforward sequential approach based on flame atomic absorption spectrometry"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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