The use of anthropometric and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measures to estimate total abdominal and abdominal visceral fat in men and women

Obes Res. 1999 May;7(3):256-64. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00404.x.


Objective: A single-slice computed tomography (CT) scan provides a criterion measure of total abdominal fat (TAF) and abdominal visceral fat (AVF), but this procedure is often prohibitive due to radiation exposure, cost, and accessibility. In the present study, the utility of anthropometric measures and estimates of trunk and abdominal fat mass by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to predict CT measures of TAF and AVF (cross-sectional area, cm2) was assessed.

Research methods and procedures: CT measures of abdominal fat (at the level of the L4-L5 inter-vertebral space), DXA scans, and anthropometric measures were obtained in 76 Caucasian adults ages 20-80 years.

Results: Results demonstrated that abdominal sagittal diameter measured by anthropometry is an excellent predictor of sagittal diameter measured from a CT image (r=0.88 and 0.94; Total Error [TE]=4.1 and 3.1 cm, for men and women, respectively). In both men and women, waist circumference and abdominal sagittal diameter were the anthropometric measures most strongly associated with TAF (r=0.87 to 0.93; Standard Error of Estimate (SEE)=60.7 to 75.4 cm2) and AVF (r=0.84 to 0.93; SEE=0.7 to 30.0 cm2). The least predictive anthropometric measure of TAF or AVF was the commonly used waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). DXA estimates of trunk and abdominal fat mass were strongly associated with TAF (r=.94 to 0.97; SEE=36.9 to 50.9 cm2) and AVF (r=0.86 to 0.90; SEE=4.9 to 27.7 cm2).

Discussion: The present results suggest that waist circumference and/or abdominal sagittal diameter are better predictors of TAF and AVF than the more commonly used WHR. DXA trunk fat and abdominal fat appear to be slightly better predictors of TAF but not AVF compared to these anthropometric measures. Thus DXA does not offer a significant advantage over anthropometry for estimation of AVF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed