Comparison of body fat estimates derived from underwater weight and total body water

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1994 Sep;18(9):622-6.


The purpose of this study was to compare the techniques of underwater weighing and analysis of total body water for estimating body fat with that derived from a 3-compartment model combining total body density and total body water. Body fat was estimated from: (1) body density using the Siri equation; (2) total body water assuming a hydration factor of 0.73 for fat free mass; and (3) the 3-compartment model combining body density and body water. The criterion method in this study was body fat mass determined from Siri's 3-compartment model. The subjects in this study included 10 obese men (41 +/- 10 years; 115.5 +/- 16.6 kg), 7 elderly men (68 +/- 6 years, 77.1 +/- 7.4 kg), and 18 young men (24 +/- 5 years; 71.0 +/- 9.2 kg). Body density was obtained by underwater weight with simultaneous determination of lung volume by helium dilution. Body water was obtained from zero-time extrapolation of isotope washout over 10-14 days following an oral dose of 2H2O and H2(18)O. Estimates of body fat derived from total body water were significantly higher than that derived from underwater weight in the elderly (1.4 +/- 1.5 kg; P < 0.05) and younger (3.0 +/- 2.8 kg; P < 0.001) men. In the obese subjects, there was no significant difference in body fat estimates between the two techniques (mean difference = 1.3 +/- 5.1 kg). The overestimation of body fat from total body water relative to underwater weight was negatively associated with body fat mass estimated from the 3-compartment model combining measurement of density and water (r = -0.35; P = 0.04). It is concluded that total body water overestimates body fat relative to underwater weight, and that this effect is more pronounced in leaner subjects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Water*
  • Body Weight
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diagnosis*