Purpose of review: For the assessment of energy balance or monitoring of therapeutic interventions, there is a need for noninvasive and highly precise methods of body composition analysis that are able to accurately measure small changes in fat and fat-free mass (FFM).
Recent findings: The use of quantitative magnetic resonance (QMR) for measurement of body composition has long been established in animal studies. There are, however, only a few human studies that examine the validity of this method. These studies have consistently shown a high precision of QMR and only a small underestimation of fat mass by QMR when compared with a 4-compartment model as a reference. An underestimation of fat mass by QMR is also supported by the comparison between measured energy balance (as a difference between energy intake and energy expenditure) and energy balance predicted from changes in fat mass and FFM. Fewer calories were lost and gained as fat mass compared with the value expected from measured energy balance.
Summary: Current evidence in healthy humans has shown that QMR is a valid and precise method for noninvasive measurement of body composition. Contrary to standard reference methods, such as densitometry and dual X-ray absorptiometry, QMR results are independent of FFM hydration. However, despite a high accuracy and a low minimal detectable change, underestimation of fat mass by QMR is possible and limits the use of this method for quantification of energy balance.