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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2022

Malia N. M. Blue*
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Katie R. Hirsch
Department of Geriatrics, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Center for Translational Research in Aging & Longevity, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA
Gabrielle J. Brewer
Korey Stringer Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
Hannah E. Cabre
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Lacey M. Gould
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Grant M. Tinsley
Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA
Bennett K. Ng
Emerging Growth and Incubation Group, Intel Corporation, Santa Clara, CA, USA
Eric D. Ryan
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Darin Padua
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Abbie E. Smith-Ryan
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA Department of Nutrition, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
*Corresponding author: Dr M. N. M. Blue, email


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. One hundred and ten individuals (55 % female, age: 26·5 (sd 6·9) years) 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 with 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 utilised 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 TE for all racial and ethnic cohorts and results should be interpreted cautiously.

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© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Nutrition Society

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