Why bioelectrical impedance analysis should be used for estimating adiposity

Linda B. Houtkooper, Timothy G. Lohman, Scott B. Going, Wanda H. Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

302 Scopus citations


The whole-body bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) approach for estimating adiposity and body fat is based on empirical relations established by many investigators. Properly used, this noninvasive body-composition assessment approach can quickly, easily, and relatively inexpensively provide accurate and reliable estimates of fat-free mass (FFM) and total body water (TBW) in healthy populations. The estimated FFM or TBW values are used to calculate absolute and relative body fat amounts. When different investigators follow the same standard BIA procedures and use the same population and criterion method, similar prediction equations and relatively small prediction errors have been reported for measurement of FFM and TBW (SEE: 1.7-3.0 for FFM and 0.23-1.5 kg for TBW). The BIA approach is most appropriate for estimating adiposity of groups in epidemiologic and field studies but has limited accuracy for estimating body composition in individuals. When used as a simple index (stature2/resistance), BIA is more sensitive and specific for grading average adiposity in groups than some other anthropometric indexes such as the body mass index. Prediction equations based on BIA have been validated and cross validated in children, youths, adults, and the elderly, in primarily white populations and, to a limited extent, in Asian, black, and Native American populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436S-448S
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • Bioelectrical impedance analysis
  • adiposity
  • body composition
  • body fat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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