Body composition of two human cadavers by neutron activation and chemical analysis

Am J Physiol. 1986 Feb;250(2 Pt 1):E179-85. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1986.250.2.E179.


In vivo neutron activation analysis (NAA) is currently used to measure body composition in metabolic and nutritional studies in many clinical situations, but has not previously been validated by comparison with chemical analysis of human cadavers. Total body nitrogen (TBN) and chlorine (TBCl) were measured in two human cadavers by NAA before homogenization and chemical analysis (CHEM) after (cadaver 1: TBN, 1.47 NAA, 1.51 CHEM; TBCl, 0.144 NAA, 0.147 CHEM; cadaver 2: TBN, 0.576 NAA, 0.572 CHEM; TBCl, 0.0227 NAA, 0.0250 CHEM). The homogenates were also analyzed by NAA, and no significant differences were found, indicating that the effects of elemental inhomogeneity on the measurement of TBN and TBCl are insignificant. Total body water, fat, protein, minerals, and carbohydrates were measured chemically for each cadaver and compared with estimates for these compartments obtained from a body composition model, which when used in vivo involves NAA and tritium dilution. The agreement found justifies the use of the model for the measurement of changes in total body protein, water, and fat in sequential studies in groups of patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activation Analysis*
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition*
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods*
  • Chlorine / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Neutron Activation Analysis*
  • Nitrogen / analysis


  • Chlorine
  • Nitrogen