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Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Jun;53(6):1339-44.

In vivo determination of body fat by measuring total body carbon.

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US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111.


Total body carbon (TBC) is measured in vivo by neutron inelastic scattering. The fast neutrons needed for the irradiation are produced by a miniature deuterium-tritium (D-T) neutron generator. Body fat and protein are the main contributors to TBC. Bone ash and carbohydrates contribute less than 3%. Fat is calculated from TBC after the subtraction of the carbon contributions from protein, bone, and glycogen. The technique was applied to 14 normal volunteers (8 females, 6 males) aged 24-94 y who underwent neutron inelastic scattering and neutron activation measurements for body carbon, nitrogen, and calcium. The initial results agree with other techniques. Unlike models that evaluate body fat by subtracting lean body mass from body weight, the TBC technique is not sensitive to assumptions on the composition of lean body; therefore, it is appropriate for studies of adults of any age and health condition.

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