Fat-free mass (FFM) was estimated in forty-seven premenopausal Chinese women, aged 18–43 years, from anthropometric data (skinfolds, body mass index (weight/height2; BMI)) or bioelectrical impedance, using several prediction formulas for body composition from the literature, and values compared with the mean of these three individual methods used as a frame of reference. In thirty-six women these values could be compared with FFM calculated from total body water (TBW) determined by D2O dilution. The prediction formulas used were developed from studies on Caucasian adults and their validity will have to be shown in populations with different ethnic backgrounds. The mean difference between FFM predicted from BMI and the frame of reference was 0.1 kg (95 % confidence interval (CI) -0.1, 0.4), from bioelectrical impedance it was 0.5 kg (95% CI 0.3, 0.7), and from skinfolds it was -0.6 kg (95% CI -0.9, -0.4). The mean difference between FFM calculated from TBW and the frame of reference was higher (2.2 kg, 95 % CI 1.2,3.3). The results of the present study indicate that the three methods may be valid for predicting body composition in adult Chinese females, but further research is needed on development and cross-validation of prediction equations for body composition for Chinese.