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Metabolism. 1985 Jun;34(6):509-18.

Measurement of body fat and hydration of the fat-free body in health and disease.


Body fat mass, fat-free body mass and body water are basic components of body composition which are used in nutritional and metabolic studies and in patient care. A method of measuring total body fat (TBF), fat-free mass (FFM) and its hydration (TBW/FFM) involving prompt gamma in vivo neutron activation analysis (IVNAA) and tritium dilution has been compared with the more traditional methods of densitometry and skinfold anthropometry in 36 normal volunteers, and with skinfold anthropometry in 56 patients presenting for nutritional support. While the mean values of TBF were in reasonable agreement for the three methods in normals it was founds that skinfold anthropometry underestimated TBF relative to the IVNAA/tritium method by, on average, 3.0 kg (19%) in patients. Furthermore, the ranges of values in normals of the ratio TBW/FFM for the anthropometric (0.62 to 0.80) and densitometric (0.65 to 0.80) methods were much wider than the range for the IVNAA/tritium method (0.69 to 0.76), in which TBW was measured by tritium dilution in all cases. In the patients, the ranges of this ratio were 0.52 to 0.90 for the anthropometric method and 0.67 to 0.82 for the IVNAA/tritium method; clearly anthropometry yields values of TBW/FFM which are outside accepted biological limits. On the basis of these findings, ranges of TBW/FFM are suggested for both normal adults (0.69 to 0.75) and patients requiring nutritional support (0.67 to 0.83). Finally it is concluded that the IVNAA/tritium method is a suitable method for measuring TBF and FFM and particularly so when body composition is abnormal.

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