The fatty acid composition of oils and fats is important for health (for example, high levels of polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 oils are generally considered to be good for health; foods with a high level of saturated fat content are considered unhealthy).
It will become mandatory in the EU at the end of 2016 to display levels of saturated fats on processed food labels; this is already mandatory in the USA, and other countries can be expected to follow. With this minimum requirement in place, food producers may choose to add further information where health benefits can be promoted through high levels of polyunsaturates and omega-3 oils. It is therefore important to have rapid, simple, and reliable methods to determine the fatty acid composition of triglycerides.
The Pulsar method has been developed in collaboration with the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, UK. This triglyceride analysis works by analysing the high resolution 60MHz NMR spectrum of an oil or fat sample, either in liquid form or extracted from a food sample using chloroform. The total measurement time, including sample preparation, is typically less than 5 minutes for most samples, and could be up to an hour for very lean samples.
Pulsar is a high performance benchtop (NMR) spectrometer operating at 60MHz proton frequency. It uses a permanent magnet, so does not require liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, or compressed gasses, and it has no special health and safety requirements. It can be operated in a normal analytical laboratory by non-NMR expert laboratory technicians.
This work received support from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board project no. 101250.