The aim of the study was to examine the accuracy of fan-beam dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) for measuring total body fat-free mass (FFM) and leg muscle mass (MM) in elderly persons. Participants were 60 men and women aged 70-79 yr and with a body mass index of 17.5-39.8 kg/m(2). FFM and MM at four leg regions were measured by using DEXA (Hologic 4500A, v8.21). A four-compartment body composition model (4C) and multislice computed tomography (CT) of the legs were used as the criterion methods for FFM and MM, respectively. FFM by DEXA was positively associated with FFM by 4C (R(2) = 0.98, SE of estimate = 1.6 kg). FFM by DEXA was higher [53.5 +/- 12.0 (SD) kg] than FFM by 4C (51.6 +/- 11.9 kg; P < 0.001). No association was observed between the difference and the mean of the two methods. MM by DEXA was positively associated with CT at all four leg regions (R(2) = 0.86-0.96). MM by DEXA was higher than by CT in three regions. The results of this study suggest that fan-beam DEXA offers considerable promise for the measurement of total body FFM and leg MM in elderly persons.