The Utility of Body Composition Assessment in Nutrition and Clinical Practice: An Overview of Current Methodology

Nutrients. 2021 Jul 22;13(8):2493. doi: 10.3390/nu13082493.


Body composition is a key component for maintaining good general health and longevity. It can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices. The assessment of body composition is an essential tool for nutrition specialists to effectively evaluate nutritional status and monitor progression during dietary interventions. As humans age, there is a natural increase in fat mass coupled with a gradual decline in lean mass, specifically in bone and muscle mass. Individuals with a high body fat percentage are at a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, several types of cancer, and early mortality. Significant decreases in bone mineral density signify osteopenia and osteoporosis, while reductions in skeletal muscle mass increase the risk of developing sarcopenia. Moreover, undernutrition exacerbates the effects of many medical conditions and is important to address. Though weight tracking and calculation of BMI are used commonly by clinicians and dietitians, these measures do not provide insight on the relative contributions of fat mass and fat-free mass or the changes in these compartments that may reflect disease risk. Therefore, it is important that healthcare professionals have a critical understanding of body composition assessment and the strengths and limitations of the methods available.

Keywords: anthropometrics; bioimpedance; nutritional status; obesity; osteoporosis; sarcopenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Anthropometry*
  • Body Composition*
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Plethysmography, Whole Body*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed