A novel method of utilizing skinfolds and bioimpedance for determining body fat percentage via a field-based three-compartment model




The purpose was to determine if skinfolds (SF) and bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) could provide accurate estimates of body volume (BV) and total body water (TBW), respectively, for use in a 3-compartment (3-C) model to estimate percent body fat (BF%) when compared to laboratory derived measures.


A sample of sixty-four men (age = 22.9 ± 5.4 years) and 59 women (age = 21.6 ± 4.3 years) participated in the study. Laboratory 3-C (3CLAB) model BF% was determined with underwater weighing for body volume (BV) and bioimpedance spectroscopy for total body water (TBW). The 3-C field (3CFIELD) estimates of BF% included BV from the 7-site SF technique and TBW from hand-to-foot BIA.


A significant difference in BF% (p < 0.01) was found between the 3CLAB and 3CFIELD in the entire sample and within the men, but the effect sizes (ES) were small (0.09 and 0.17, respectively). The difference between means was not significant in the women (ES = 0.05, p = 0.332). Compared to the 3CLAB, the total error (TE) ranged 2.2–2.4% for 3CFIELD, 5.7–5.8% for SF, and 4.0–4.6% for BIA.


The findings suggest that BV and TBW derived from SF and BIA, respectively, can be used in a 3CFIELD model to increase the accuracy of BF% estimates over SF and BIA alone.

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Correspondence to Michael R. Esco.

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Esco, M., Nickerson, B.S., Fedewa, M. et al. A novel method of utilizing skinfolds and bioimpedance for determining body fat percentage via a field-based three-compartment model. Eur J Clin Nutr 72, 1431–1438 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-017-0060-3

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