Accuracy of body composition measurement techniques across the age span

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):482-494. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2021-0587. Epub 2022 Jan 18.


This study investigated the acceptable accuracy of common body composition techniques compared with the reference 4-compartment (4C-R) model, which has not been investigated in a sample with diverse characteristics, including age and sex. Techniques included components of the 4C-R model [dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, air displacement plethysmography, deuterium dilution (DD)] and surrogate compartment models, which utilised bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy (BIS) rather than DD. Men and women (sex = 1:1, 18-85 years, n = 90) completed body composition testing under best-practice guidance. For measurement of individuals, only the reference 3-compartment (3C-R) equation met acceptable error limits (<5% error among individuals) within the a priori cut-point (80%) for fat-free mass (FFM; CV = 0.52%) and fat mass (FM; CV = 1.61%). However, all investigated techniques reached equivalency to the 4C-R model for FFM on average (CV = 0.52-4.31%), but for FM only the 3C and 4C equations that included quantification of total body water (TBW) by DD or BIS reached equivalency overall (CV = 1.61-6.68%). Sex and age minimally influenced accuracy. Only the 3C-R or 4C-R equations are supported for acceptable individual accuracy for both FFM and FM. For group estimates any investigated technique could be used with acceptable accuracy for FFM; however, for FM, inclusion of TBW measurement within a compartment model is necessary. Novelty: Only the referent 3C and 4C models (including deuterium dilution) provide accurate body composition results that are acceptable for measurement of individuals in the general population. For group estimates of lean mass in the general population, compartments models that include TBW must be used for accurate measurement.

Keywords: 4-compartment; accord; adultes; adults; agreement; compartment model; lean mass; masse maigre; modèle de compartiment; modèle à 4 compartiments; reference; référence.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Water
  • Deuterium
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Plethysmography* / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Deuterium