The use of bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is widespread both in healthy subjects and patients, but suffers from a lack of standardized method and quality control procedures. BIA allows the determination of the fat-free mass (FFM) and total body water (TBW) in subjects without significant fluid and electrolyte abnormalities, when using appropriate population, age or pathology-specific BIA equations and established procedures. Published BIA equations validated against a reference method in a sufficiently large number of subjects are presented and ranked according to the standard error of the estimate. The determination of changes in body cell mass (BCM), extra cellular (ECW) and intra cellular water (ICW) requires further research using a valid model that guarantees that ECW changes do not corrupt the ICW. The use of segmental-BIA, multifrequency BIA, or bioelectrical spectroscopy in altered hydration states also requires further research. ESPEN guidelines for the clinical use of BIA measurements are described in a paper to appear soon in Clinical Nutrition.