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Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2019 Jun;44(6):619-626. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2018-0276. Epub 2018 Oct 24.

Ethnic differences in fat and muscle mass and their implication for interpretation of bioelectrical impedance vector analysis.

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a seca gmbh and co. kg, Hamburg, Germany, 22089.
b The University of Tokyo Hospital, Tokyo Japan, 113-8655.
c Clínica de Obesidad y Trastornos de la Conducta Alimentaria. Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán. Vasco de Quiroga 15 Col. Belisario Dominguez Sección XVI, Tlalpan 14080 CDMX. México.
d Institute for Transfusion Medicine, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, 20246.
e Department of Nutrition and Gerontology, German Institute of Human Nutrition, Potsdam-Rehbruecke, Nuthetal, Germany, 14558.
f Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Berlin Germany, 13347.
g Department of Transfusion Medicine, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, Mexico City, Mexico, 14080.
h Institut für Humanernährung und Lebensmittelkunde, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel, Germany, 24105.


According to the World Health Organization Expert Consultation, current body mass index (BMI) cut-offs should be retained as an international classification. However, there are ethnic differences in BMI-associated health risks that may be caused by differences in body fat or skeletal muscle mass and these may affect the interpretation of phase angle and bioelectrical impedance vector analysis (BIVA). Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare body composition measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis among 1048 German, 1026 Mexican, and 995 Japanese adults encompassing a wide range of ages and BMIs (18-78 years; BMI, 13.9-44.3 kg/m2). Regression analyses between body composition parameters and BMI were used to predict ethnic-specific reference values at the standard BMI cut-offs of 18.5, 25, and 30 kg/m2. German men and women had a higher fat-free mass per fat mass compared with Mexicans. Normal-weight Japanese were similar to Mexicans but approached the German phenotype with increasing BMI. The skeletal muscle index (SMI, kg/m2) was highest in Germans, whereas in BIVA, the Mexican group had the longest vector, and the Japanese group had the lowest phase angle and the highest extracellular/total body water ratio. Ethnic differences in regional partitioning of fat and muscle mass at the trunk and the extremities contribute to differences in BIVA and phase angle. In conclusion, not only the relationship between BMI and adiposity is ethnic specific; in addition, fat distribution, SMI, and muscle mass distribution vary at the same BMI. These results emphasize the need for ethnic-specific normal values in the diagnosis of obesity and sarcopenia.


analyse d’impédance bioélectrique; analyse vectorielle d’impédance bioélectrique; angle de phase; bioelectrical impedance analysis; bioelectrical impedance vector analysis; body composition; body mass index; composition corporelle; ethnicity; ethnicité; fat mass; fat-free mass; indice de masse corporelle; indice musculosquelettique; masse adipeuse; masse maigre; phase angle; skeletal muscle index

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