This study investigates the effects of developmental stage and muscle type on the mobility and distribution of water within skeletal muscles, using low-field1H-NMR transverse relaxation measurements in vitro on four different porcine muscles (M. longissimus dorsi, M. semitendinosus, M. biceps femoris, M. vastus intermedius) from a total of 48 pigs slaughtered at various weight classes between 25 kg and 150 kg. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed effects of both slaughter weight and muscle type on the transverse relaxation decay. Independent of developmental stage and muscle type, distributed exponential analysis of the NMR T2relaxation data imparted the existence of three distinct water populations, T2b, T21, and T22, with relaxation times of approximately 1-10, 45-120, and 200-500 ms, respectively. The most profound change during muscle growth was a shift toward faster relaxation in the intermediate time constant, T21. It decreased by approx. 24% in all four muscle types during the period from 25 to 150 kg live weight. Determination of dry matter, fat, and protein content in the muscles showed that the changes in relaxation time of the intermediate time constant, T21, during growth should be ascribed mainly to a change in protein content, as the protein content explained 77% of the variation in the T21time constant. Partial least squares (PLS) regression revealed validated correlations in the region of 0.58 to 0.77 between NMR transverse relaxation data and muscle development for all the four muscle types, which indicates that NMR relaxation measurements may be used in the prediction of muscle developmental stage. © 2002 Elsevier Science.
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