Original Article | Published:

Body composition, energy expenditure and physical activity

Clinically applicable optical imaging technology for body size and shape analysis: comparison of systems differing in design

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition volume 71, pages 13291335 (2017) | Download Citation



Recent advances have extended anthropometry beyond flexible tape measurements to automated three-dimensional optical devices that rapidly acquire hundreds of body surface dimensions. Three new devices were recently introduced that share in common inexpensive optical cameras. The design, and thus potential clinical applicability, of these systems differ substantially leading us to critically evaluate their accuracy and precision.


113 adult subjects completed evaluations by the three optical devices (KX-16 (16 stationary cameras), Proscanner (1 vertically oscillating camera), and Styku scanner (1 stationary camera)), air displacement plethysmography (ADP), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and a flexible tape measure. Optical measurements were compared to reference method estimates that included results acquired by flexible tape, DXA and ADP.


Optical devices provided respective circumference and regional volume estimates that overall were well-correlated with those obtained from flexible tape measurements (for example, hip circumference: R2, 0.91, 0.90, 0.96 for the KX-16, Proscanner, and Styku scanner, respectively) and DXA (for example, trunk volume: R2, 0.97, 0.97, and 0.98). Total body volumes measured by the optical devices were highly correlated with those from the ADP system (all R2s, 0.99). Coefficient of variations obtained from duplicate measurements (n, 55) were larger in optical than in reference measurements and significant (P<0.05) bias was present for some optical measurements relative to reference method estimates.


Overall, the evaluated optical imaging systems differing in design provided body surface measurements that compared favorably with corresponding reference methods. However, our evaluations uncovered system measurement limitations, such as discrepancies in landmarking, that with correction have the potential to improve future developed devices.

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The authors acknowledge the input provided by optical device manufacturers on the operational details of their respective systems. This work was partially supported by two National Institutes of Health NORC Center Grants P30DK072476, Pennington/Louisiana; and P30DK040561, Harvard; and R01DK109008, Shape UP! Adults.

Author contributions

BB, CRS, LR, XL, BKN, JAS and SBH analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript; BB, DL, CRS, LR, JAS and SBH designed the study; BB, DL, CRS and SBH directed implementation and data collection; BB, DL, CRS and LR collected the data; LR, JAS and SBH provided necessary logistical support; BB, DL, CRS, LR, XL, BKN, JAS and SBH edited the manuscript for intellectual content and provided critical comments on the manuscript.

Author information


  1. Department of Metabolism and Body Composition, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

    • B Bourgeois
    • , D Latimer
    •  & S B Heymsfield
  2. School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA

    • B Bourgeois
    • , C R Stannard
    • , L Romeo
    • , X Li
    •  & S B Heymsfield
  3. Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

    • B K Ng
    •  & J A Shepherd
  4. Graduate Program in Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

    • B K Ng


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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S B Heymsfield.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on European Journal of Clinical Nutrition website (http://www.nature.com/ejcn)

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