Nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, calcium, and oxygen are all measurable in vivo by methods known as neutron activation analysis. A source emits a neutron stream that interacts with body tissues. The resulting decay products of activated elements can be counted by detectors and elemental mass established. Carbon, nitrogen, and calcium can be used to estimate total body fat, protein, and bone mineral mass using established equations. Neutron activation analysis is uniquely valuable in body composition research as there are no known age or sex effects of currently applied equations, however, facilities that provide these techniques are limited.
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