Skip to main content

Estimating Body Fat from Anthropometry and Isotopic Dilution: A Four-Country Comparison


Eckhardt, Cara L.; Adair, Linda S.; Caballero, Benjamin; Avila, Josephine L.; Kon, Igor Y.; Wang, Jinzhong; & Popkin, Barry M. (2003). Estimating Body Fat from Anthropometry and Isotopic Dilution: A Four-Country Comparison. Obesity Research, 11(12), 1553-1562.


Objective: The goal was to assess the ability of BMI to predict body fat (BF) among youths in four countries and identify the degree to which additional anthropometric measures improve this prediction. BMI is widely recommended as an indicator of overweight. However, whether BMI adequately estimates BF and has the same meaning in different ethnic groups and youths has been questioned. Research methods and procedures: Data come from 456 Filipino, Chinese, Russian, and black South African youths, 6 to 16 years old. Percentage BF and fat mass index (FMI) were estimated by the deuterium dilution method. Skinfold thicknesses (triceps, subscapular, and suprailiac) and weight and height measures were collected. Percentage BF was regressed first on BMI and age and then with the addition of the skinfold measures. Linear models were run separately by country and sex. The models were repeated with FMI as the outcome. Results: The R2 values from the percentage BF models ranged from 0.13 to 0.69 in the first models to 0.38 to 0.81 in the full models. The values were lowest among Russian males > or = 13 years and Russian females > or = 13 years of age in the reduced and full models, respectively, and were highest among Chinese females. Using FMI as the outcome did not meaningfully change the results. Discussion: The ability of BMI to adequately predict BF and the additional predictivity of anthropometric measures varied widely across the samples, making its uniform use as a proxy for BF in youths from different countries questionable.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Obesity Research


Eckhardt, Cara L.
Adair, Linda S.
Caballero, Benjamin
Avila, Josephine L.
Kon, Igor Y.
Wang, Jinzhong
Popkin, Barry M.