Simple Skeletal Muscle Mass Estimation Formulas: What We Can Learn From Them

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020 Feb 5;11:31. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00031. eCollection 2020.


One century ago Harris and Benedict published a short report critically examining the relations between body size, body shape, age, and basal metabolic rate. At the time, basal metabolic rate was a vital measurement in diagnosing diseases such as hypothyroidism. Their conclusions and basal metabolic rate prediction formulas still resonate today. Using the Harris-Benedict approach as a template, we systematically examined the relations between body size, body shape, age, and skeletal muscle mass (SM), the main anatomic feature of sarcopenia. The sample consisted of 12,330 non-Hispanic (NH) white and NH black participants in the US National Health and Nutrition Survey who had complete weight, height, waist circumference, age, and dual-energy X-ray (DXA) absorptiometry data. A conversion formula was used to derive SM from DXA-measured appendicular lean soft tissue mass. Weight, height, waist circumference, and age alone and in combination were significantly correlated with SM (all, p < 0.001). Advancing analyses through the aforementioned sequence of predictor variables allowed us to establish how at the anatomic level these body size, body shape, and age measures relate to SM much in the same way the Harris-Benedict equations provide insights into the structural origins of basal heat production. Our composite series of SM prediction equations should prove useful in modeling efforts and in generating hypotheses aimed at understanding how SM relates to body size and shape across the adult lifespan.

Keywords: anthropometry; body composition; nutritional assessment; sarcopenia; waist circumference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Age Factors
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size / physiology
  • Body Weights and Measures / methods*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods
  • Nutrition Surveys / standards
  • Organ Size
  • Sarcopenia / diagnosis
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics as Topic / methods
  • Waist Circumference