Body fat measurement in adolescents: comparison of skinfold thickness equations with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Oct;59(10):1158-66. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602226.


Objective: To compare the most commonly used equations to predict body fatness from skinfold thickness, in male and female adolescents, with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) as a reference method of fatness measurement.

Design: Cross-sectional nutrition survey.

Setting: General adolescent population from Zaragoza (Spain).

Subjects and methods: A total of 238 Caucasian adolescents (167 females and 113 males), aged 13.0-17.9 y, were recruited from 15 school groups in 11 public and private schools. The percentage fat mass (%FM) was calculated by using skinfold-thickness equations. Predicted %FM was compared with the reference %FM values, measured by DXA. The lack of agreement between methods was assessed by calculating the bias and its 95% limits of agreement.

Results: Most equations did not demonstrate good agreement compared with DXA. However, in male adolescents, Slaughter et al equations showed relative biases that were not dependent on body fatness and the limits of agreement were narrower than those obtained from the rest of equations. In females, Brook's equation showed nonsignificant differences against DXA and the narrowest 95% limits of agreement. Only biases from Brook and Slaughter et al equations were not dependent on body fatness in female adolescents.

Conclusions: Accuracy of most of the skinfold-thickness equations for assessment of %FM in adolescents was poor at the individual level. Nevertheless, to predict %FM when a relative index of fatness is required in field or clinical studies, Slaughter et al equations may be used in adolescents from both sexes and the Brook equation in female adolescents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods*
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness*