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Chapter: Introduction to Human Nutrition: Body Composition

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Anthropometric variables - Body composition techniques

Measurements of widths of skeletal diameters provide an indication of the amount of skeletal mass.

Other anthropometric variables

Measurements of widths of skeletal diameters provide an indication of the amount of skeletal mass. There are formulae that allow the calculation of the skeletal mass from body height, wrist diameter, and knee diameter. The current reference data for ideal weight in the USA use the elbow diameter to classify people into three types of body build.

 

In elderly subjects, the measurement of stature can be difficult owing to kyphosis and/or shrinkage of the spinal vertebrae. Knee height can then be used to predict the maximal stature during lifetime. Arm span is also used for that purpose. However, one has to realize that the current prediction formulae are developed in younger populations, in which the rela-tionship between stature and surrogate measure-ments may be different. In addition, the prediction error (3–5 cm) is relatively high. Knee height can also be used by itself (without predicting total stature), when comparing stature-adjusted body composition between young and old people.

 

Circumferences of the extremities or the trunk are used to obtain information on body composition.

From the mid-arm circumference, in combination with the triceps skinfold thickness, information on muscle mass and fat mass of the upper arm can be obtained. Circumferences of the trunk at waist, hip, and upper thigh level are used as indicators of body fat distribution. The WHO suggests an upper limit waist-to-hip circumference ratio above 0.85 for females and 1.00 for males for abdominal fat distribu-tion. Diameters can also be used to gain insights into body fat distribution. A high sagittal diameter com-pared with transverse diameter of the abdomen is indicative of an enlarged amount of visceral fat. However, it has to be kept in mind that the relation-ship between these anthropometric parameters of body fat distribution and the intra-abdominal fat determined by CT or MRI scan is generally low. Changes in internal fat detected by MRI are only weakly associated with changes in these anthropo-metric parameters of fat distribution.


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