The Use of Technology for Estimating Body Composition: Strengths and Weaknesses of Common Modalities in a Clinical Setting

Levi M. Teigen, Adam J. Kuchnia, Marina Mourtzakis, Carrie P. Earthman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Assessment of body composition, both at single time points and longitudinally, is particularly important in clinical nutrition practice. It provides a means for the clinician to characterize nutrition status at a single time point, aiding in the identification and diagnosis of malnutrition, and to monitor changes over time by providing real-time information on the adequacy of nutrition interventions. Objective body composition measurement tools are available clinically but are often underused in nutrition care, particularly in the United States. This is, in part, due to a number of factors concerning their use in a clinical context: cost and accessibility of equipment, as well as interpretability of the results. This article focuses on the factors influencing interpretation of results in a clinical setting. Body composition assessment, regardless of the method, is inherently limited by its indirect nature. Therefore, an understanding of the strengths and limitations of any method is essential for meaningful interpretation of its results. This review provides an overview of body composition technologies available clinically (computed tomography, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, bioimpedance, ultrasound) and discusses the strengths and limitations of each device.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-29
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition in Clinical Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.


  • bioimpedance
  • body composition
  • computed tomography
  • dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry
  • lean tissue
  • malnutrition
  • nutrition assessment
  • nutritional status
  • skeletal muscle
  • ultrasonography


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