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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 May;86(5):1728-38.

Validity of methods of body composition assessment in young and older men and women.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


We examined the validity of percent body fat (%Fat) estimation by two-compartment (2-Comp) hydrostatic weighing (Siri 2-Comp), 3-Comp dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA 3-Comp), 3-Comp hydrostatic weighing corrected for the total body water (Siri 3-Comp), and anthropometric methods in young and older individuals (n = 78). A 4-Comp model of body composition served as the criterion measure of %Fat (Heymsfield 4-Comp; S. B. Heymsfield, S. Lichtman, R. N. Baumgartner, J. Wang, Y. Kamen, A. Aliprantis, and R. N. Pierson Jr., Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 52: 52-58, 1990.). Comparison of the Siri 3-Comp with the Heymsfield 4-Comp model revealed mean differences of </=0.4 %Fat, r values >/= r = 0.997, total error values </= 0.85 %Fat, and 95% confidence intervals (Bland-Altman analysis) of </=1.7 %Fat. Comparison of Siri 2-Comp, DEXA, and anthropometric models with the Heymsfield 4-Comp revealed that total error scores ranged from +/-4. 0 to +/-10.7 %Fat, and 95% confidence intervals associated with the Bland-Altman analysis ranged from +/-5.1 to +/-15.0 %Fat. We conclude that the Siri 3-Comp model provides valid and accurate body composition data when compared with a 4-Comp criterion model. However, the individual variability associated with the Siri 2-Comp, DEXA 3-Comp, and anthropometric models may limit their use in research settings. The use of anthropometric estimation methods resulted in large mean differences and a considerable amount of interindividual variability. These data suggest that the use of these techniques should be viewed with caution.

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