Measuring body composition - the amount of fatty tissue, muscle tissue and bone present in the body - can provide valuable information for determining an individual's overall health status. However, obtaining accurate measurements can be difficult and expensive, according to Steve Ball, University of Missouri Extension fitness specialist. Now, MU researchers are comparing measurement techniques to determine the most efficient and cost-effective method for assessing body composition.

"There are several field and laboratory techniques for measuring body composition, but few are accurate, comfortable, non-invasive and do not require a highly trained technician," said Ball, associate professor of exercise physiology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. "The most accurate laboratory techniques are expensive, time-consuming and aren't accessible to many health practitioners and trainers. Methods that are inexpensive and easily available, such as skinfold testing, body mass index and bioelectrical impedance, aren't the most accurate."

Two of the most effective laboratory methods for assessing body composition are dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA, pronounced 'dexa'), which is considered the 'gold standard'; and the Bod Pod, which measures air displacement and body volume. The 3-D body scanner, originally developed to measure clothing sizes, is a new method that might be a more cost-effective system to measure body fatness. No previous study has compared body composition measurements from the 3-D body scanner to DXA or the Bod Pod to determine its efficacy.
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