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Am J Physiol. 1991 Aug;261(2 Pt 1):E190-8.

Chemical and elemental analysis of humans in vivo using improved body composition models.

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Department of Medicine, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York 10025.


Six chemical compartments [water, protein, mineral (osseus and cellular), glycogen, and fat] consisting of 11 elements (N, C, Ca, Na, Cl, K, H, P, O, S, and Mg) comprise greater than or equal to 99% of body weight in living humans. The combination of three neutron-activation systems, whole body 40K counting, and 3H2O dilution at Brookhaven National Laboratory now potentially makes it possible to quantify greater than or equal to 96% of the chemical and elemental determinants of body weight in vivo. The aims of the present study were 1) to develop 6- and 11-compartment chemical and elemental models, respectively, and 2) to evaluate these models in a group of 20 healthy adults. Results demonstrated that body weight estimated from either chemical or elemental components was highly correlated with (both r = 0.97, P less than 0.001) and on average differed by less than 4% from actual body weight. The compartmental results obtained using the chemical model were also evaluated by comparing calculated and actual body density (Db) estimated by underwater weighing. Calculated Db [1.041 +/- 0.017 (SD) g/ml] agreed closely and was highly correlated with actual Db (1.039 +/- 0.018 g/ml; r = 0.82; P less than 0.001). Hence a near-complete chemical and elemental analysis of living human subjects is now possible and, with potential future refinements, represents an important opportunity to quantify the effects of gender, aging, and ethnic status on body composition.

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