Dual-energy X-ray performs as well as clinical computed tomography for the measurement of visceral fat

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 May;20(5):1109-14. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.367. Epub 2012 Jan 12.


Visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is associated with adverse health effects including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. We developed a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measurement of visceral adipose tissue (DXA-VAT) as a low cost and low radiation alternative to computed tomography (CT). DXA-VAT was compared to VAT assessed using CT by an expert reader (E-VAT). In addition, the same CT slice was also read by a clinical radiographer (C-VAT) and a best-fit anthropomorphic and demographic VAT model (A-VAT) was developed. Whole body DXA, CT at L4-L5, and anthropometry were measured on 272 black and white South African women (age 29 ± 8 years, BMI 28 ± 7 kg/m(2), waist circumference (WC) 89 ± 16 cm). Approximately one-half of the dataset (n = 141) was randomly selected and used as a training set for the development of DXA-VAT and A-VAT, which were then used to estimate VAT on the remaining 131 women in a blinded fashion. DXA-VAT (r = 0.93, standard error of the estimate (SEE) = 16 cm(2)) and C-VAT (r = 0.93, SEE = 16 cm(2)) were strongly correlated to E-VAT. These correlations with E-VAT were significantly stronger (P < 0.001) than the correlations of individual anthropometry measurements and the A-VAT model (WC + age, r = 0.79, SEE = 27 cm(2)). The inclusion of anthropometric and demographic measurements did not substantially improve the correlation between DXA-VAT and E-VAT. DXA-VAT performed as well as a clinical read of VAT from a CT scan and better than anthropomorphic and demographic models.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black People
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / ethnology
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult