Development and validation of skinfold-thickness prediction equations with a 4-compartment model

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1186-91. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/77.5.1186.


Background: Skinfold-thickness measurements are commonly obtained for the indirect assessment of body composition.

Objective: We developed new skinfold-thickness equations by using a 4-compartment model as the reference. Additionally, we compared our new equations with the Durnin and Womersley and Jackson and Pollock skinfold-thickness equations to evaluate each equation's validity and precision.

Design: Data from 681 healthy, white adults were used. Percentage body fat (%BF) values were calculated by using the 4-compartment model. The cohort was then divided into validation and cross-validation groups. Equations were developed by using regression analyses and the 4-compartment model. All equations were then tested by using the cross-validation group. Tests for accuracy included mean differences, R(2), and Bland-Altman plots. Precision was evaluated by comparing root mean squared errors.

Results: Our new equations' estimated means for %BF in men and women (22.7% and 32.6%, respectively) were closest to the corresponding 4-compartment values (22.8% and 32.8%). The Durnin and Womersley equation means in men and women (20.0% and 31.0%, respectively) and the Jackson and Pollock mean in women (26.2%) underestimated %BF. All equations showed a tendency toward underestimation in subjects with higher %BF. Bland-Altman plots showed limited agreement between Durnin and Wormersley, Jackson and Pollock, and the 4-compartment model. Precision was similar among all the equations.

Conclusions: We developed accurate and precise skinfold-thickness equations by using a 4-compartment model as the method of reference. Additionally, we found that the skinfold-thickness equations frequently used by clinicians and practitioners underestimate %BF.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness*