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Phenotyping in clinical nutrition

Reference values of body composition parameters for Vietnamese men and women



Body composition parameters are linked to cardio-metabolic risk. However, high-quality reference values of body composition are scarce, particularly in Asian population. The aim of study was to construct sex- and age-specific normative reference values of body composition for the Vietnamese population.


This study was designed as a cross-sectional investigation that involved 2700 women and 1459 men aged between 20 and 90 (average 48, SD 15) who were participants in the population-based Vietnam Osteoporosis Study. Whole-body composition parameters (e.g., fat mass and lean mass) and site-specific (head, arms, trunk, and legs) parameters were measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (Hologic Horizon). Reference curves for each parameter and anatomical site were constructed using the Generalized Additive Model for Location Scale and Shape modeling technique.


Overall, 8% of women and 11% of men were classified as obese (body mass index ≥ 27.5 kg/m2). Most fat mass was deposited at the trunk (~50%), followed by the leg (~33%). Women had ~10% more body fat (relative to body weight) than men. However, whole-body lean mass was higher in men than women, with the average difference being ~13 kg. Moreover, men had more bone mineral content than women (2110 vs. 1600 g). We also provided a comparison of age-related changes in body composition parameters between Vietnamese and US Whites.


These data provide gender- and age-specific reference values of body composition parameters for Vietnamese population. These normative values provide health professionals and the public with a resource for interpretation of body composition data.

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Fig. 1: Age-related change in whole-body PBF (%) for women (left) and men (right).
Fig. 2: Age-related change in whole-body fat mass (kg) for women (left) and men (right).
Fig. 3: Age-related change in whole-body lean mass (kg) for women (left) and men (right).
Fig. 4: Age-related change in whole-body bone mineral content (g) for women (left) and men (right).


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We sincerely thank MS Tran Thi Ngoc Trang and Fr Pham Ba Lam for coordinating the recruitment of participants. We also thank doctors and medical students of the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine for the data collection and clinical measurements.


This research is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology Development of Ton Duc Thang University (FOSTECT,, Grant number FOSTECT.2014.BR.09, and a grant from the Department of Science and Technology of Ho Chi Minh City. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceived and designed the experiments: TVN, LTHP, and HGN. Performed the experiments: TVN, LTHP, NVL, and KHND. Analyzed the data: HGN and TVN. Wrote the paper: HGN, LTHP, and TVN.

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Correspondence to Lan T. Ho-Pham.

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Nguyen, H.G., Le, N.V., Nguyen-Duong, K.H. et al. Reference values of body composition parameters for Vietnamese men and women. Eur J Clin Nutr 75, 1283–1290 (2021).

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