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Res Q Exerc Sport. 1999 Jun;70(2):135-49.

Techniques of body composition assessment: a review of laboratory and field methods.

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Exercise and Sports Science Department, Vanguard University of Southern California, USA.


Body composition is one of the major health-related components of fitness. Thus, it is important for health and fitness professionals to have a general understanding of the most commonly used techniques for assessing body composition. This review presents the developmental background and underlying principles and theory of four laboratory (hydrodensitometry, air displacement plethysmography, isotope dilution, and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) and four field (bioelectrical impedance analysis, near-infrared interactance, skinfolds, and anthropometry) methods of body composition assessment. In addition to a description of the methods, the validity, and reliability, strengths, and limitations of each measurement tool are examined. Highlights of the laboratory methods include the relatively new Bod Pod air displacement device, which is a promising assessment tool more convenient than hydrodensitometry but still lacking substantial validity testing and the ability of dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry to measure regional composition making it an attractive method for clinicians. Advancements in segmental and multifrequency bioelectrical impedance for compartmental analysis have enhanced the value of this field method, but research continues to show that commercially available near-infrared interactance units are invalid. With this knowledge, the clinician and researcher should be able to make an informed decision regarding the most appropriate measurement device for their body composition assessments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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