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Advanced body composition assessment: from body mass index to body composition profiling
  1. Magnus Borga1,2,3,
  2. Janne West2,3,4,
  3. Jimmy D Bell5,
  4. Nicholas C Harvey6,7,
  5. Thobias Romu1,2,3,
  6. Steven B Heymsfield8,
  7. Olof Dahlqvist Leinhard2,3,4
  1. 1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2 Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV), Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  3. 3 Advanced MR Analytics AB, Linköping, Sweden
  4. 4 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  5. 5 Research Centre for Optimal Health, University of Westminster, London, UK
  6. 6 MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  7. 7 NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, University of Southampton, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  8. 8 Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Magnus Borga, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping 581 83, Sweden; magnus.borga{at}


This paper gives a brief overview of common non-invasive techniques for body composition analysis and a more in-depth review of a body composition assessment method based on fat-referenced quantitative MRI. Earlier published studies of this method are summarized, and a previously unpublished validation study, based on 4753 subjects from the UK Biobank imaging cohort, comparing the quantitative MRI method with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is presented. For whole-body measurements of adipose tissue (AT) or fat and lean tissue (LT), DXA and quantitative MRIs show excellent agreement with linear correlation of 0.99 and 0.97, and coefficient of variation (CV) of 4.5 and 4.6 per cent for fat (computed from AT) and LT, respectively, but the agreement was found significantly lower for visceral adipose tissue, with a CV of >20 per cent. The additional ability of MRI to also measure muscle volumes, muscle AT infiltration and ectopic fat, in combination with rapid scanning protocols and efficient image analysis tools, makes quantitative MRI a powerful tool for advanced body composition assessment.

  • body composition
  • magnetic resonance imaging

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Contributors MB, JW and ODL planned the work. MB, TR and ODL developed and applied the MR analysis methods used. JDB was responsible for the UK Biobank body MRI and NCH for the UK Biobank DXA scans. MB and JW performed the statistical analyses. SBH contributed with expertise on body composition. MB drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed to editing the text.

  • Funding Funding support for analysis of UK Biobank data was provided by Pfizer.

  • Competing interests MB, JW, TR and ODL are employees and stockholders of AMRA Medical AB.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval North West Multicenter Research Ethics Committee (MREC), UK.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The underlying data used in this study are available though the UK Biobank resource. All bonafide researchers can apply to use the UK Biobank resource for health-related research that is of public interest by applying in the Access Management System (AMS). For details, see:

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