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Proc Nutr Soc. 2016 May;75(2):181-7. doi: 10.1017/S0029665115004206. Epub 2015 Nov 6.

Application of standards and models in body composition analysis.

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Institute of Human Nutrition and Food Science,Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel,Kiel,Germany.
Institute of Clinical Nutrition,Universität Hohenheim,Stuttgart,Germany.


The aim of this review is to extend present concepts of body composition and to integrate it into physiology. In vivo body composition analysis (BCA) has a sound theoretical and methodological basis. Present methods used for BCA are reliable and valid. Individual data on body components, organs and tissues are included into different models, e.g. a 2-, 3-, 4- or multi-component model. Today the so-called 4-compartment model as well as whole body MRI (or computed tomography) scans are considered as gold standards of BCA. In practice the use of the appropriate method depends on the question of interest and the accuracy needed to address it. Body composition data are descriptive and used for normative analyses (e.g. generating normal values, centiles and cut offs). Advanced models of BCA go beyond description and normative approaches. The concept of functional body composition (FBC) takes into account the relationships between individual body components, organs and tissues and related metabolic and physical functions. FBC can be further extended to the model of healthy body composition (HBC) based on horizontal (i.e. structural) and vertical (e.g. metabolism and its neuroendocrine control) relationships between individual components as well as between component and body functions using mathematical modelling with a hierarchical multi-level multi-scale approach at the software level. HBC integrates into whole body systems of cardiovascular, respiratory, hepatic and renal functions. To conclude BCA is a prerequisite for detailed phenotyping of individuals providing a sound basis for in depth biomedical research and clinical decision making.


4-Compartment model; ADP air displacement plethysmography; BCA body composition analysis; CT computed tomography; DXA dual X-ray-absorptiometry; FBC functional body composition; FFM fat free mass; FM fat mass; Fat free mass; Fat mass; HBC healthy body composition; LST lean soft tissue; MRI; SM skeletal muscle; VAT visceral adipose tissue

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