Comparison of methods to assess change in children's body composition

Jane Elberg, Jennifer R. McDuffie, Nancy G. Sebring, Christine Salaita, Margaret Keil, Delphine Robotham, James C. Reynolds, Jack A. Yanovski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about how simpler and more available methods to measure change in body fatness compare with criterion methods such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) in children. Objective: Our objective was to determine the ability of air-displacement plethysmography (ADP) and formulas based on triceps skinfold thickness (TSF) and bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to estimate changes in body fat over time in children. Design: Eighty-six nonoverweight and overweight boys (n = 34) and girls (n = 52) with an average age of 11.0 ± 2.4 y underwent ADP, TSF measurement, BIA, and DXA to estimate body fatness at baseline and 1 ± 0.3 y later. Recent equations were used to estimate percentage body fat by TSF measurement (Dezenberg equation) and by BIA (Suprasongsin and Lewy equations). Percentage body fat estimates by ADP, TSF measurement, and BIA were compared with those by DXA. Results: All methods were highly correlated with DXA (P < 0.001). No mean bias forestimates of percentage body fat change was found for ADP (Siri equation) compared with DXA for all subjects examined together, and agreement between body fat estimation by ADP and DXA did not vary with race or sex. Magnitude bias was present for ADP relative to DXA (P < 0.01). Estimates of change in percentage body fat were systematically overestimated by BIA equations (1.37 ± 6.98%; P < 0.001). TSF accounted for only 13% of the variance in percentage body fat change. Conclusion: Compared with DXA, there appears to be no noninvasive and simple method to measure changes in children's percentage body fat accurately and precisely, but ADP performed better than did TSF or BIA. ADP could prove useful for measuring changes in adiposity in children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-69
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2004


  • Adiposity
  • Air-displacement plethysmography
  • Bioelectrical impedance
  • Body fat mass
  • Change
  • Children
  • DXA
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • Growth
  • Skinfold thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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