Techniques for the measurement of visceral fat: a practical guide

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1993 Apr;17(4):187-96.


The measurement of fat distribution has become an important issue in obesity research. Numerous techniques have been developed to assess visceral fat because this fat seems to be most strongly associated with metabolic disorders. This review focuses on methods for the direct and indirect assessment of visceral fat ranging from multiple-scan computerized tomography to anthropometric measurements. The principles of techniques, their accuracy and reproducibility as well as aspects of costs and safety are discussed. Comparison of the different methods shows that imaging techniques, such as computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, are the optimal techniques available for accurate assessment of visceral fat. Methods other than imaging techniques have limited potential in the measurement of changes in visceral fat deposition. Anthropometric measurements can be useful to classify subjects into different types of fat distribution for diagnosis of abdominal obesity, and for general application in epidemiological studies. The choice of a particular technique should be based on a balance of practical and financial considerations and the aim of the study. Involvement of ionizing radiation exposure may be an important element in the decision-making process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Composition
  • Humans
  • Radiography
  • Ultrasonography
  • Viscera / anatomy & histology*
  • Viscera / diagnostic imaging