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Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is a non-invasive imaging modality that can estimate whole-body and regional composition in terms of fat, lean, and bone mass. We examined the ability of DEXA body composition measures (whole-body, trunk, and limb fat mass and fat-free mass) to predict mortality in conjunction with basic body measures (anthropometrics), expressed using body mass index (BMI) and a body shape index (ABSI). We used data from the 1999–2006 United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), with mortality follow-up to 2015. We found that all DEXA-measured masses were highly correlated with each other and with ABSI and that adjustment for BMI and ABSI reduced these dependencies. Whole-body composition did not substantially improve mortality prediction compared to basic anthropometrics alone, but regional composition did, with high trunk fat-free mass and low limb fat-free mass both associated with elevated mortality risk. These findings illustrate how DEXA body composition could guide health assessment in conjunction with the more widely employed simple anthropometrics.


This work was originally published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, available at

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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