Neutron activation (NA) is the only method available for multielemental analysis of the body. NA analysis consists of irradiating the subject with fast neutrons during a total-body scan. Elements within the body such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and chlorine capture the neutrons, resulting in unstable isotopes. After returning to a stable condition, they emit one or more gamma rays at specific energy levels. Only a few NA instruments are currently available, because NA is quite expensive, requires considerable expertise, and is slow (15 60 min). Contrary to a number of human NA body composition studies, animal studies such as in swine or sheep are restricted.
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