The use of bioelectrical impedance analysis for body composition in epidemiological studies

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan:67 Suppl 1:S79-85. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.168.


Background/objectives: Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is a relatively simple, inexpensive and non-invasive technique to measure body composition and is therefore suitable in field studies and larger surveys.

Subjects/methods: We performed an overview of BIA-derived body fat percentages (BF%) from 55 published studies of healthy populations aged 6-80 years. In addition, the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and body composition is documented in the context of BIA as a good alternative to closely differentiate which composition of the body better relates to the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)and all-cause mortality.

Results and conclusions: BIA-estimated percentage of BF varies greatly with population and age. BIA-estimated BF% is directly and closely related to various health outcomes such as CVDs, which is in contrast to BMI where both high and low BMIs are associated with increased risk of developing chronic diseases. Studies, among others using BIA, suggest that low BMI may reflect low muscle and high BMI fat mass (FM). BIA-derived lean and FM is directly associated with morbidity and mortality. To the contrary, BMI is rather of limited use for measuring BF% in epidemiological studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Fluid Compartments*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Cause of Death
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electric Impedance*
  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Humans
  • Muscles