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The magic angle view to food: magic-angle spinning (MAS) NMR spectroscopy in food science

  • Henrik Max Jensen
  • Hanne Christine BertramEmail author
Review Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Feeding a healthier world: metabolomics for food and nutrition


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has been used in food science and nutritional studies for decades and is one of the major analytical platforms in metabolomics. Many foods are solid or at least semi-solid, which denotes that the molecular motions are restricted as opposed to in pure liquids. While the majority of NMR spectroscopy is performed on liquid samples and a solid material gives rise to constraints in terms of many chemical analyses, the magic angle thrillingly enables the application of NMR spectroscopy also on semi-solid and solid materials. This paper attempts to review how magic-angle spinning (MAS) NMR is used from ‘farm-to-fork’ in food science.

Graphical abstract


Semi-solid food characterization Food composition Foodomics Food metabolites Meat Dairy Plant-based food Taste compounds Cheese Food authenticity Intact tissue Food structure Fruit ripening Grain filling, vegetables, plant biochemistry 

Abbreviations and definitions


Two-dimensional. Term used for techniques, which give data plotted in a space defined by two frequency axes rather than one and with the intensities constituting a third dimension


Comprehensive multiphase NMR combining both 1H HR-MAS, diffusion restriction and 13C CP MAS type of experiments in one probe


Cross polarization. CP is technique employed in solid-state NMR to transfer magnetization from one type of spin to another type of spin through space. This is achieved by applying a pulse simultaneously on the two different spins


Carr–Purcell–Meiboom–Gill. CPMG is a pulse sequence that utilizes a T2 relaxation filter to remove or attenuate broad resonances from of molecules with a short T2 relaxation. This enables broadening of macromolecules beyond detection, allowing improved detection of small molecules


Delays alternating with nutations for tailored excitation (Morris and Freeman 1978).


Dynamic nuclear polarisation. Highly sensitive NMR technique where spectra are recorded under hyperpolarisation of the sample


Differential scanning calorimetry


Fourier transform InfraRed spectroscopy


γ-Aminobutyric acid


Gas chromatography


Hierarchical cluster analysis. HCA is method that is used to classify and cluster samples or variables based on their similarities and dissimilarities


High resolution


High resolution MAS. A term defined by the vendor for NMR probe heads optimized for 1H NMRof gel-state samples (not crystalline, but soft solids, swollen materials or gels), where standard liquid pulse sequences (1D and 2D, HSQC, TOCSY) can be applied under magic angle spinning conditions


High pressure liquid chromatography


Heteronuclear single quantum correlation. HSQC is a 2D experiment used in NMR spectroscopy. In a 1H-13C HSQC experiment, information about the correlation between the aliphatic carbon and its attached protons are obtained, which can facilitate in spectral assignment


Hadamard encoded intermolecular multiple-quantum coherence


Magic angle spinning. MAS is a technique used in solid-state NMR spectroscopy and consists of spinning the sample at the magic angle θm (54.74°) with respect to the direction of the magnetic field to enhance the spectral resolution


Multivariate data analysis. MVDA is typically used to explore variations and trends in data across a high number of variables. As NMR spectral data consist of a high number of variables, MVDA is a useful tool to explore NMR spectral data


Nuclear Overhauser enhancement spectroscopy. An NMR experiment that takes advantage of the Nuclear Overhauser effect, consisting of dipole–dipole interactions through space


Orthogonal partial least squares. O-PLS is an adaption of PLS that separates the systematic variation in X into variation that is related or unrelated to Y


Phase-altered spinning sideband. Scheme for two-dimensional sideband separation in MAS NMR. The scheme can produce spinning sideband-free solid-state NMR spectra (Antzutkin et al. 1995)


Principal component analysis


Phase-corrected magic angle turning. Scheme for two-dimensional sideband separation in MAS NMR. The scheme can produce spinning sideband-free solid-state NMR spectra (Hu et al. 1995)


Partial least squares projections to latent structures is the supervised extension of PCA where the data matrix, X, is related to Y by regression


Partial least squares discriminant analysis. PLS-DA is a supervised method that uses a categorical response variable


Poly(methyl methacrylate). Polymer material used for MAS rotors


Polyoxymethylene. Polymer material used for MAS rotors


Proton relaxation induced spectral-editing. A 13C cross-polarization experiment that takes advantage of differences in the 1H relaxation to obtain information on molecular dynamics. If multiple components are present in the proton relaxation processes, proton magnetisation can be prepared in such a way that the magnetisation of protons having different relaxation times is separated (Tang et al. 2000)


Quantitative NMR. qNMR refers to the use of NMR to determine the exact concentration of one or more chemical species


: Refocused-insensitive nuclei enhanced by polarization transfer. RINEPT is technique employed in solution NMR to elucidates scalar (or J-) couplings between 1H and 13C nuclei. The technique has occasionally been adopted to solid-state NMR to transfer magnetization from one type of spin to another type of spin through bonds (Arnold et al. 2015)


The procedure for optimizing the magnetic field homogeneity prior to acquisition of a spectrum


Single pulse. The most basic NMR experiment is called a single pulse experiment. The experiment begins with the system at equilibrium and thus magnetization is oriented along the z axis. The first step is a 90° x pulse, which means that an excitation field is applied along the x axis by one of the radio frequency coils


Secure water suppression enhanced through T1 effects. Modified version of the WET pulse sequence where each selective pulse is broken up in the DANTE fashion, inserting bipolar pulsed-field gradients in the delays (Wu and Otting 2005)


Total correlation spectroscopy. TOCSY is a 2D experiment that enables the detection of cross peaks of coupled protons. Cross peaks are observed both for nuclei which are directly coupled and also between nuclei which are connected by a chain of couplings. This makes it useful for identifying the larger interconnected networks of spin couplings.


Water suppression by gradient-tailored excitation. In WATERGATE the gradient echo sequence combines a selective 180-degrees radiofrequency pulse and two field gradient pulses to achieve a highly selective and effective water suppression (Piotto et al. 1992).


Water suppression enhanced through T1 effects. This pulse sequence uses shaped, selective pulses and pulsed magnetic field gradients to suppress one or more solvent signals. The WET scheme is based on a series of water-selective excitation pulses followed by pulsed field gradients to defocus the transverse water magnetization (Smallcombe et al. 1995).


Wide line separation NMR. WISE is an NMR experiment based on the use of cross-polarization to characterize molecular dynamics (Schmidt-Rohr et al. 1992).


X-ray diffraction


Author contributions

HMJ contributed with literature search and drafted approx. 65% of the text. HCB contributed with literature search and drafted approx. 35% of the text. Both authors revised and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors Henrik Max Jensen and Hanne Christine Bertram declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11306_2019_1504_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1130 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DuPont Nutrition Biosciences ApSBrabrandDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Food ScienceAarhus UniversityAarslevDenmark

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