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Using MRI to Measure Fatty Acids in Olive Oil

Sep. 19, 2010
Sarah Schwager

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By Sarah Schwager
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires

A Spanish researcher says he has devel­oped a new way of detect­ing fatty acids in olive oil.

University of Castilla La Mancha’s (UCLM) School of Chemical Sciences Professor Andrés Moreno dis­cov­ered that by using mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing (MRI) he can iden­tify fatty acids and other metabo­lites present in foods such as olive oil and cheese.

The study, enti­tled Analysis and reac­tiv­ity of fatty acids and unsat­u­rated mono‑, di‑, and triglyc­erides using MRI in cheeses and oils from the Castilla-La Mancha
region
, finds that by using this method­ol­ogy it is pos­si­ble to char­ac­ter­ize and dif­fer­en­ti­ate between vari­eties of olive oils.

The grow­ing sophis­ti­ca­tion of coun­ter­feit­ing and adul­ter­ation in the food indus­try requires a con­tin­u­ous effort to pro­vide tech­niques capa­ble of ensur­ing food qual­ity. According to the researchers, MRI allows us to exam­ine the phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of meat, fish, dairy prod­ucts, veg­eta­bles, fruits, juices, cheese, wine and emul­sions. Specific prop­er­ties can be inves­ti­gated, includ­ing alco­holic per­cent­age, ripen­ing fruit, sugar con­tent, ratio of oil and water, ratio of sat­u­rated fatty acids / unsat­u­rated and on food adul­ter­ation.”

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Olive oil is com­posed mainly of the mixed triglyc­eride esters of oleic acid and palmitic acid and of other fatty acids, along with traces of squa­lene (up to 0.7%) and sterols (about 0.2% phy­tos­terol and tocos­terols). The com­po­si­tion varies by cul­ti­var, region, alti­tude, time of har­vest, and extrac­tion process.

using-mri-to-measure-fatty-acids-in-olive-oil-olive-oil-times-dr-andres-moreno-3rd-from-left-and-fellow-researchers-at-uclm

Dr. Andres Moreno (3rd from left) and fel­low researchers at UCLM
.

The per­cent­age of fatty acids in olive oils can vary sig­nif­i­cantly and is very impor­tant in deter­min­ing qual­ity. International Olive Oil Council (IOC) guide­lines, for exam­ple, say that the accept­able amount of linolenic acid in extra vir­gin olive oil must be less than 0.8%.

UCLM says mag­netic res­o­nance spec­troscopy is a valu­able tool that enables the detec­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and quan­tifi­ca­tion of dif­fer­ent types of metabo­lites present in com­plex sam­ples such as food in a fast, sim­ple and effec­tive way”.

MRI has been used in fields such as med­i­cine, bio­chem­istry and organic chem­istry.

Currently, to deter­mine the fatty acids con­tained in olive oil requires the use of com­plex meth­ods such gas chro­matog­ra­phy with a flame ion­iza­tion detec­tor. To ensure the results are pre­cise in this method, care­ful atten­tion to detail is needed dur­ing sam­ple prepa­ra­tion, injec­tion, chro­matog­ra­phy and data col­lec­tion, accord­ing to The American Oil Chemists’ Society.

The study also says that MRI pro­vides a wealth of infor­ma­tion that allows it to char­ac­ter­ize and deter­mine the var­i­ous lev­els of matu­rity of cheeses.

The project, funded in part by the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha, acquired mag­netic res­o­nance appa­ra­tus val­ued at 900,000 euros.

Professor Moreno and his research group belong to UCLM’s Regional Institute of Applied Scientific Research.

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