Development and validation of anthropometric prediction equations for lean body mass, fat mass and percent fat in adults using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006

Br J Nutr. 2017 Nov;118(10):858-866. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517002665. Epub 2017 Nov 7.


Quantification of lean body mass and fat mass can provide important insight into epidemiological research. However, there is no consensus on generalisable anthropometric prediction equations to validly estimate body composition. We aimed to develop and validate practical anthropometric prediction equations for lean body mass, fat mass and percent fat in adults (men, n 7531; women, n 6534) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. Using a prediction sample, we predicted each of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-measured lean body mass, fat mass and percent fat based on different combinations of anthropometric measures. The proposed equations were validated using a validation sample and obesity-related biomarkers. The practical equation including age, race, height, weight and waist circumference had high predictive ability for lean body mass (men: R 2=0·91, standard error of estimate (SEE)=2·6 kg; women: R 2=0·85, SEE=2·4 kg) and fat mass (men: R 2=0·90, SEE=2·6 kg; women: R 2=0·93, SEE=2·4 kg). Waist circumference was a strong predictor in men only. Addition of other circumference and skinfold measures slightly improved the prediction model. For percent fat, R 2 were generally lower but the trend in variation explained was similar. Our validation tests showed robust and consistent results with no evidence of substantial bias. Additional validation using biomarkers demonstrated comparable abilities to predict obesity-related biomarkers between direct DXA measurements and predicted scores. Moreover, predicted fat mass and percent fat had significantly stronger associations with obesity-related biomarkers than BMI did. Our findings suggest the potential application of the proposed equations in various epidemiological settings.

Keywords: DXA dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; NHANES National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; SEE standard error of estimate; TC total cholesterol; Anthropometric prediction equations; Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry; Fat mass; Lean body mass; Obesity biomarkers; Percent fat.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Fluid Compartments*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size*
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity*
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult