European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 589–595 | Cite as

A comparison of dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and bioelectrical impedance analysis to measure total and segmental body composition in healthy young adults

  • Siobhan Leahy
  • Cian O’Neill
  • Rhoda Sohun
  • Philip Jakeman
Original Article


The aim of this study was to investigate the accuracy of BIA in the measurement of total body composition and regional fat and the fat free mass in the healthy young adults. Four hundred and three healthy young adults (167 women and 236 men) aged 18–29 years were recruited from the Mid-West region of Ireland. Multi frequency, eight-polar bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) were used to measure the total body and segmental (arm, leg and trunk) fat mass and the fat free mass. BIA was found to underestimate the percentage total body fat in men and women (p < 0.001). This underestimate increased in men with >24.6% body fat and women with >32% body fat (p < 0.001). Fat tissue mass in the trunk segment was overestimated by 2.1 kg (p < 0.001) in men and underestimated by 0.4 kg (p < 0.001) in women. BIA was also found to underestimate the fat free mass in the appendages by 1.0 kg (p < 0.001) in men and 0.9 kg (p < 0.001) in women. Compared to dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, bioelectrical impedance analysis underestimates the total body fat mass and overestimates fat free mass in healthy young adults. BIA should, therefore, be used with caution in the measurement of total body composition in women and men with >25% total body fat. Though statistically significant, the small difference (~ 4%) between the methods indicates that the BIA may be used interchangeably with DXA in the measurement of appendicular fat free mass in healthy young adults.


Body fat Fat free mass Segmental analysis Photon Human 



This study was supported by funding from a University of Limerick Research Grant.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siobhan Leahy
    • 1
  • Cian O’Neill
    • 1
  • Rhoda Sohun
    • 1
  • Philip Jakeman
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Health SciencesUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

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