Body Composition Measurements from Birth through 5 Years: Challenges, Gaps, and Existing & Emerging Technologies
Early Stage Investigator Opportunity: See ABSTRACTS Tab
Measurement of body composition during infancy and childhood has important uses in primary and specialty health care settings, clinical research, and national surveys and surveillance. Health care providers can use body composition information to screen for current and future health risks, provide anticipatory guidance, monitor therapeutic progress, and tailor treatment for precision medicine. Researchers can better understand the longitudinal associations between body composition and various health/disease outcomes throughout the lifespan, beginning at birth, and the impact of various obesity prevention and weight management interventions. National reference data for body composition distributions by age, sex, race/ethnicity from survey measurements (e.g., NHANES) can be used for population monitoring and evaluation activities for young children (e.g., WIC clinics, Early Head Start). A number of approaches have been used to estimate or directly measure various aspects of body composition: fat free mass (FFM), fat mass (FM), percent body fat (% BF), total body water (TB H2O), etc. at various ages and include anthropometry (recumbent length, stature, weight, circumferences, skinfold thickness), bioelectrical impedance analysis, air displacement plethysmography; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), multicompartment models including TBW by deuterium dilution, total body potassium counting, and bone mineral content by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). However, several limitations have been identified across the various measurement procedures that can lead to inaccurate estimates of fat mass or percent BF or prohibit its use in younger children, including prediction equations that tend to be specific to the population from which they were derived (anthropometric measures), inaccuracies due to crying/movement during testing (BOD POD or MRI), exposure to radiation (DXA), and high cost or significant technical examiner expertise (MRI). These limitations and challenges can be considerable for body composition measurement in children from birth to 5 years. There are also presently no approaches that can be used across all ages from birth to adolescence or adulthood for tracking the natural history of obesity or the longitudinal outcomes of intervention research on body composition.
To identify specific needs for research that will help fill existing knowledge gaps and to identify opportunities to improve measurement of body composition components in infants from birth through age 5 years, with a special focus on measures that can be used longitudinally and for evaluation of intervention studies.
Dympna Gallagher, Ed.D.
Professor of Nutritional Medicine
Director of Body Composition Unit
Co-Director, New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center
Division of Endocrinology in Medicine
Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, NY
Steven B. Heymsfield, M.D.
Director of Metabolism and Body Composition Laboratory
Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
NIH Organizing Committee Members
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Robert J. Kuczmarski, Dr.P.H. (Chair)
Voula Osganian, M.D., Sc.D., M.P.H.
Mary Evans, Ph.D.
Susan Yanovski, M.D.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Brian Kit, M.D., M.P.H.
NIH Office of Disease Prevention
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
May 20, 2019