The validation of contemporary body composition methods in various races and ethnicities

Malia N.M. Blue, Katie R. Hirsch, Gabrielle J. Brewer, Hannah E. Cabre, Lacey M. Gould, Grant M. Tinsley, Bennett K. Ng, Eric D. Ryan, Darin Padua, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Few investigations have evaluated the validity of current body composition technology among racially and ethnically diverse populations. This study assessed the validity of common body composition methods in a multi-ethnic sample stratified by race and ethnicity. 110 individuals (55% female, age: 26.5±6.9 yrs) identifying as Asian, African American/Black, Caucasian/White, Hispanic, Multi-racial, and Native American were enrolled. Seven body composition models (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [DXA], air displacement plethysmography [ADP], two bioelectrical impedance devices [BIS, IB] and three multi-compartment models) were evaluated against a four-compartment criterion model by assessing total error (TE) and standard error of the estimate. For the total sample, measures of %fat and fat-free mass (FFM) from multi-compartment models were all excellent to ideal (%fat: TE=0.94-2.37%; FFM: TE=0.72-1.78 kg) compared to the criterion. %fat measures were very good to excellent for DXA, ADP and IB (TE=2.52-2.89%) and fairly good for BIS (TE=4.12%). For FFM, single device estimates were good (BIS; TE = 3.12 kg) to ideal (DXA, ADP, IB; TE = 1.21-2.15 kg). Results did not vary meaningfully between each race and ethnicity, except BIS was not valid for African American/Black, Caucasian/White and Multi-racial participants for %fat (TE=4.3-4.9%). The multi-compartment models evaluated can be utilized in a multi-ethnic sample and in each individual race and ethnicity to obtain highly valid results for %fat and FFM. Estimates from DXA, ADP and IB were also valid. The BIS may demonstrate greater total error for all racial and ethnic cohorts and results should be interpreted cautiously.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • body fat percentage
  • dual energy-X-ray absorptiometry
  • fat-free mass
  • four-compartment model
  • multi-ethnic


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