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Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1316-26. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.036970. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Body-composition reference data for simple and reference techniques and a 4-component model: a new UK reference child.

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  • 1Childhood Nutrition Research Centre, University College London Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.



A routine pediatric clinical assessment of body composition is increasingly recommended but has long been hampered by the following 2 factors: a lack of appropriate techniques and a lack of reference data with which to interpret individual measurements. Several techniques have become available, but reference data are needed.


We aimed to provide body-composition reference data for use in clinical practice and research.


Body composition was measured by using a gold standard 4-component model, along with various widely used reference and bedside methods, in a large, representative sample of British children aged from 4 to ≥20 y. Measurements were made of anthropometric variables (weight, height, 4 skinfold thicknesses, and waist girth), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, body density, bioelectrical impedance, and total body water, and 4-component fat and fat-free masses were calculated. Reference charts and SD scores (SDSs) were constructed for each outcome by using the lambda-mu-sigma method. The same outcomes were generated for the fat-free mass index and fat mass index.


Body-composition growth charts and SDSs for 5-20 y were based on a final sample of 533 individuals. Correlations between SDSs by using different techniques were ≥0.68 for adiposity outcomes and ≥0.80 for fat-free mass outcomes.


These comprehensive reference data for pediatric body composition can be used across a variety of techniques. Together with advances in measurement technologies, the data should greatly enhance the ability of clinicians to assess and monitor body composition in routine clinical practice and should facilitate the use of body-composition measurements in research studies.

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