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PeerJ. 2017 May 18;5:e3302. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3302. eCollection 2017.

Body composition estimation from selected slices: equations computed from a new semi-automatic thresholding method developed on whole-body CT scans.

Author information

Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Anthropology and Human Genetics, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Department of Software and Computer Science Education, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.
Department of Forensic Medicine, Unit of Forensic Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
PACEA, UMR 5199, CNRS, Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.
Contributed equally



Estimating volumes and masses of total body components is important for the study and treatment monitoring of nutrition and nutrition-related disorders, cancer, joint replacement, energy-expenditure and exercise physiology. While several equations have been offered for estimating total body components from MRI slices, no reliable and tested method exists for CT scans. For the first time, body composition data was derived from 41 high-resolution whole-body CT scans. From these data, we defined equations for estimating volumes and masses of total body AT and LT from corresponding tissue areas measured in selected CT scan slices.


We present a new semi-automatic approach to defining the density cutoff between adipose tissue (AT) and lean tissue (LT) in such material. An intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) was used to validate the method. The equations for estimating the whole-body composition volume and mass from areas measured in selected slices were modeled with ordinary least squares (OLS) linear regressions and support vector machine regression (SVMR).


The best predictive equation for total body AT volume was based on the AT area of a single slice located between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae (L4-L5) and produced lower prediction errors (|PE| = 1.86 liters, %PE = 8.77) than previous equations also based on CT scans. The LT area of the mid-thigh provided the lowest prediction errors (|PE| = 2.52 liters, %PE = 7.08) for estimating whole-body LT volume. We also present equations to predict total body AT and LT masses from a slice located at L4-L5 that resulted in reduced error compared with the previously published equations based on CT scans. The multislice SVMR predictor gave the theoretical upper limit for prediction precision of volumes and cross-validated the results.


Adipose tissue; Body composition; Lean tissue; Single slices; Volume and mass estimation; Whole-body CT scans

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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