Validity of Body-Composition Methods across Racial and Ethnic Populations

Malia N.M. Blue, Grant M. Tinsley, Eric D. Ryan, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Multi-compartment body-composition models that divide the body into its multiple constituents are the criterion method for measuring body fat percentage, fat mass, and fat-free mass. However, 2- A nd 3-compartment body-composition devices such as air displacement plethysmography (ADP), DXA, and bioelectrical impedance devices [bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)] are more commonly used. Accuratemeasures depend on several assumptions, including constant hydration, body proportion, fat-free body density, and population characteristics. Investigations evaluating body composition in racial and ethnic minorities have observed differences in the aforementioned components between cohorts. Consequently, for racial/ethnic minority populations, estimates of body composition may not be valid. The purpose of this review was to comprehensively examine the validity of commonbody-composition devices in multi-ethnic samples (samples including>1 race/ethnicity) and in African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American populations. Based on the literature, DXA produces valid results in multi-ethnic samples and ADP is valid for Hispanic and African American males when utilizing race-specific equations. However, for DXA and ADP, there is a need for validity investigations that include larger, more racially diverse samples, specifically including Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, Native American adults, and African-American females. Technology has advanced significantly since initial validity studies were conducted; therefore, conclusions are based on outdated models and software. For BIA, body-composition measures may be valid in a multi-ethnic sample, but the literature demonstrates disparate results between races/ethnicities. For BIA and ADP, the majority of studies have utilized DXA or hydrostatic weighing as the criterion to determine validity; additional studies utilizing a multi-compartment model criterion are essential to evaluate accuracy. Validity studies evaluating more recent technology in larger, more racially/ethnically diverse samples may improve our ability to select the appropriate method to accurately assess body composition in each racial/ethnic population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1854-1862
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • African American
  • Asian
  • Hispanic
  • Native American
  • body fat percentage
  • fat-free mass
  • multi-ethnic
  • validation


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