Arch Dis Child 91:612-617 doi:10.1136/adc.2005.085522
  • Review

Measuring body composition

  1. J C K Wells,
  2. M S Fewtrell
  1. MRC Childhood Nutrition Centre, Institute of Child Health, London WC1, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Jonathan Wells
    MRC Childhood Nutrition Centre, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK; J.Wells{at}
  • Accepted 24 March 2006


Several aspects of body composition, in particular the amount and distribution of body fat and the amount and composition of lean mass, are now understood to be important health outcomes in infants and children. Their measurement is increasingly considered in clinical practice; however, paediatricians are often unsure as to which techniques are appropriate and suitable for application in specific contexts. This article summarises the pros and cons of measurement technologies currently available for paediatric application. Simple techniques are adequate for many purposes, and simple regional data may often be of greater value than “whole body” values obtained by more sophisticated approaches.


  • Competing interests: Dr Wells has received equipment gratis from Tanita UK for childhood body composition studies.

  • Informed consent was obtained for publication of figure 2.