Assessing body composition and changes in body composition. Another look at dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Timothy G. Lohman, Margaret Harris, Pedro J. Teixeira, Lauren Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is selected with increasing frequency as a method for both assessing body composition and measuring the changes in body composition. Issues have been raised about hydration, software version, hardware (fan beam vs. pencil beam), and the subject population in relation to the validity of DXA-derived estimates of body composition. This paper reviews validation studies of DXA to assess the impact of recent developments in its technology. Studies by Prior et al., Kohrt et al., Salamone et al., Going et al., and Pietrobelli et al. demonstrate the effectiveness of DXA estimates of changes in body composition. By contrast, Clasey et al., Nelson et al., and Friedl et al. found limitations in DXA estimates of body composition and its changes. These contradictory conclusions were explored for threats to internal validity in each research study. From this analysis, two validation guidelines are recommended for use when evaluating estimates of body composition. When multicomponent models are used, it is essential that estimates of body water as a fraction of fat-free mass fall in the expected range (71 to 75%) and have a relatively small standard deviation (2 to 3%). For measuring changes in body composition, DXA estimates of total body mass must accurately reflect both baseline and posttreatment stale body weight estimates. Failure to meet these guidelines threatens the internal validity of the study and raises the likelihood of methodological discrepancies. Applying these criteria to DXA studies of body composition under review accounts for much of the contradictory conclusions among investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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