Body Composition Tools for Assessment of Adult Malnutrition at the Bedside: A Tutorial on Research Considerations and Clinical Applications

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2015 Sep;39(7):787-822. doi: 10.1177/0148607115595227.


Because of the key role played by the body's lean tissue reserves (of which skeletal muscle is a major component) in the response to injury and illness, its maintenance is of central importance to nutrition status. With the recent development of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics/American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition diagnostic framework for malnutrition, the loss of muscle mass has been recognized as one of the defining criteria. Objective methods to evaluate muscle loss in individuals with acute and chronic illness are needed. Bioimpedance and ultrasound techniques are currently the best options for the clinical setting; however, additional research is needed to investigate how best to optimize measurements and minimize error and to establish if these techniques (and which specific approaches) can uniquely contribute to the assessment of malnutrition, beyond more subjective evaluation methods. In this tutorial, key concepts and statistical methods used in the validation of bedside methods to assess lean tissue compartments are discussed. Body composition assessment methods that are most widely available for practice and research in the clinical setting are presented, and clinical cases are used to illustrate how the clinician might use bioimpedance and/or ultrasound as a tool to assess nutrition status at the bedside. Future research needs regarding malnutrition assessment are identified.

Keywords: bioimpedance; body cell mass; fat-free mass; impedance ratio; intracellular water; lean body mass; malnutrition; muscle loss; muscle mass; nutrition status; phase angle; skeletal muscle; spectroscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ultrasonography