The evaluation of body composition: a useful tool for clinical practice

Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60(1):6-16. doi: 10.1159/000334879. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Undernutrition is insufficiently detected in in- and outpatients, and this is likely to worsen during the next decades. The increased prevalence of obesity together with chronic illnesses associated with fat-free mass (FFM) loss will result in an increased prevalence of sarcopenic obesity. In patients with sarcopenic obesity, weight loss and the body mass index lack accuracy to detect FFM loss. FFM loss is related to increasing mortality, worse clinical outcomes, and impaired quality of life. In sarcopenic obesity and chronic diseases, body composition measurement with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, bioelectrical impedance analysis, or computerized tomography quantifies the loss of FFM. It allows tailored nutritional support and disease-specific therapy and reduces the risk of drug toxicity. Body composition evaluation should be integrated into routine clinical practice for the initial assessment and sequential follow-up of nutritional status. It could allow objective, systematic, and early screening of undernutrition and promote the rational and early initiation of optimal nutritional support, thereby contributing to reducing malnutrition-induced morbidity, mortality, worsening of the quality of life, and global health care costs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition*
  • Bone Density
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine*
  • Disease Management
  • Energy Intake
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / complications
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis
  • Malnutrition / therapy
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritional Support
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Overnutrition / diagnosis
  • Overnutrition / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Sarcopenia / diagnosis
  • Sarcopenia / etiology
  • Thinness