Effectively measure and track changes in body composition from childhood to adolescence

Body composition is essential for understanding a patient’s physiological makeup and, helps measure and track changes in body composition. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple ratio of weight to height that is often used to assess growth and health in children and adolescents. Growth charts providing BMI percentiles by age, as well as BMI calculators, have been made readily available by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for public use. However, when it comes to evaluating health and development, BMI should be interpreted with caution as it is incapable of distinguishing between fat and lean mass. While a high BMI is often indicative of excess fat mass, it may also reflect increased lean mass, which is generally the case with more active individuals. The interpretation of BMI among youth is further complicated by growth and the accompanying physical changes that influence weight, height, and physiological makeup. Therefore, a more complex health indicator, such as body composition, is necessary for a comprehensive analysis of health status in pediatric populations.

Why is body composition analysis an important tool for tracking children’s health?

In less than 60 seconds, the InBody Test provides easy-to-understand, accurate and objective measurements to evaluate changes in body composition. The InBody can be used to:


  • Provides valuable information for monitoring growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence
  • Alert providers and administrators to potential health risks associated with obesity, allowing for earlier implementation of lifestyle behavior modifications
  • Create personalized nutrition and exercise interventions to improve long-term youth health outcomes

Key Assessments

obesity analysis
visceral fat
basal metabolic rate

Comprehensive assessments of body composition

Body mass index (BMI) is a common metric used in many pediatric and academic facilities; however, it has limited ability to evaluate physiological development in the youth population. InBody provides a comprehensive assessment of body composition to better evaluate child and adolescent health.

Relying on body composition measures rather than BMI allows for accurate assessment and interpretation of large weight changes resulting from rapid growth, providing a more reliable depiction of progressive health and development. Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) is a widely accepted gold standard for measuring body composition; however, it is not readily accessible, and its use in youth populations, especially very young children, is not recommended due to the small amounts of radiation exposure during measurement. Similarly, air displacement plethysmography can be used in pediatric populations, but it is also costly and typically limited to the research setting. Finding a convenient, comparable method for body composition measurement in children and adolescents can be challenging. InBody provides a safe, noninvasive alternative that presents several advantages for use in the pediatric population. It is quick, easy to perform, comfortable for subjects, accurate, and reliable. With a comprehensive report on body composition, professionals working with youth populations can conveniently and effectively identify growth trends, adiposity, and health risks that may not be discernible with weight or BMI alone.

Easily monitor growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence

Childhood and adolescence are marked by complex changes in weight, height and body composition, making it difficult to evaluate growth trends and associated health risks. Body composition analysis provides valuable information for monitoring growth trends throughout childhood and adolescence.

While physiological aspects may be more readily observed, the association between physical and mental health should not be ignored as it can have a significant impact on mental and social development in the youth populationNutrition is an integral part of proper development, especially as unhealthy eating habits begin to form during youth and often persist into adulthood. Children from low-income families are less likely to consume nutrient-dense foods, placing them at risk for undernourishment and delayed neural development. These important indicators for normal growth are statistically influenced by body weight and muscle-fat balance. However, traditional measures of health, such as BMI, are insensitive and incapable of reflecting physiological changes underlying fluctuations in weight. Consequently, body composition measurement is an essential part of health assessments for children and adolescents.

InBody provides accurate and reliable measures of body composition for tracking changes in growth and maturation throughout youth and into adulthood. It is crucial to be able to monitor body composition during puberty as fat-free mass (FFM) and fat mass (FM) can change quickly during this time. These changes are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, diet, lifestyle, and environment, and have different implications for development across the growth spectrum. Body composition changes from infancy to early childhood have been associated with different areas of cognitive function, and emerging research points to a connection between body composition and academic performance. With growing rates of childhood obesity, obese adolescents have a higher rate of missed school days per year than those with a normal weight. Reduced school attendance can impact social and mental development, hindering motor and cognitive skills.  By identifying trends in body composition in early childhood or adolescence, negative effects on health that can translate into poor development or academic performance may be prevented.

Understand potential health risks associated with obesity

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that comes with both short-term and long-term consequences. As with adult obesity, childhood obesity increases the risk of many chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, and is linked to early puberty. This combination of cardiometabolic disease risk factors can manifest as early as five years of age and often persists into adulthood. In addition to overall body fat, abdominal obesity has independent effects on health. Visceral fat is a metabolically active tissue that can start to develop and accumulate in early childhood. This centrally located adipose tissue is linked with a number of the aforementioned conditions. In addition, growing evidence points to an association between visceral adiposity and insulin resistance originating in childhood. Insulin resistance is a precursor to metabolic syndrome and increases risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Therefore, identification of excess visceral fat in addition to overall adiposity is crucial for predicting risk of developing chronic diseases that will also have lasting health effects in adulthood.

Another common concern with body composition during growth is lean mass development. The combination of very low muscle and excess fat, known as sarcopenic obesity, compounds the negative effects of either condition on metabolic health. Sarcopenic obesity is generally associated with aging in adults; however, due to lifestyle factors such as sedentary behavior starting at an earlier age, its prevalence is now increasing in younger populations. Not only does it impair normal growth in children and adolescents, but low muscle mass can also further exacerbate obesity-related conditions such as insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and inflammation, impacting long-term health outcomes. Thus, especially in pediatric populations, accurate and reliable body composition measurements are needed to effectively assess health risks for timely intervention.

InBody provides in-depth measures of total body fat and segmental fat mass, which can be used to identify obesity and fat distribution in children and adolescents. In addition, visceral fat measures allow for distinction of increased health risks associated specifically with central adiposity, which may indicate the need for close monitoring or more intense, focused health interventions. Furthermore, muscle mass can be assessed in conjunction with fat mass to determine risk of sarcopenic obesity, which requires a different interventional approach compared to sarcopenia or obesity by itself. Thus, earlier identification of obesity and its subtypes can translate into more effective prediction of long-term health risks and equips providers and administrators with the tools to implement and track the effectiveness of lifestyle education and behavior modifications to improve health outcomes.

Create personalized nutrition and exercise interventions to improve long-term youth health outcomes

When beginning a health-promotion program, nutrition and caloric intake are driving factors for body composition change. Understanding the individual’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) can help guide dietary recommendations. However, subjective measures and many equations for estimating BMR do not account for fat-free mass, which is the primary driver of energy expenditure. InBody provides a BMR value that is derived from the individual’s fat-free mass, making it a useful tool for nutrition professionals to create personalized nutrition programs, increasing success and effectiveness of pediatric weight loss programs.

In addition to balanced nutrition, physical activity is another key lifestyle component that influences body composition and health. Exercise not only increases energy expenditure for increased fat loss, it also promotes the development of lean muscle tissue. This combined effect can improve long-term cardiometabolic health as well as cognitive function and motor skills, ultimately contributing to overall growth and development. However, there are limited testing modalities that provide comprehensive data on body composition to document physiological changes and guide exercise programs. InBody’s skeletal muscle mass and segmental lean mass outputs allow professionals and administrators to quantify improvements in muscle and lean mass, target underdeveloped areas, and incorporate appropriate exercise interventions in fun and dynamic ways to optimize muscle and motor development.

Early incorporation of nutrition and exercise programs show promise for improving child development and long-term health. In addition, implementing body composition measures provides professionals with objective data to guide programs and recommendations. With valuable information on fat, muscle mass, and BMR, professionals will be able to create more effective and engaging health promotion strategies for children and adolescents. Furthermore, knowledge of muscle-fat balance or lean and fat mass distribution can inform the professional on the individual’s specific needs, altogether allowing for more targeted interventions and increased program success.

Educate families and children to create an environment conducive to healthy growth

Systematic monitoring of body composition is necessary for timely intervention and evaluation of program efficacy, yet few body composition methods are practical for continued use over time. A comprehensive InBody report not only allows progress to be tracked over time, but it also serves as an invaluable tool for staff members to educate families and children, creating an environment conducive to healthy growth.

Many schools and family-based programs promote physical activity, modified diet, and decreased sedentary behavior. While these programs may help reduce the risk of obesity, few have been effective or sustained outside of school settings or over long periods of time. This lack of long-term success can occur for any number of reasons, the most common being short-term adherence due to lack of maintenance or follow up. This can lead to stalled progress and may have a direct link to reduced motivation or diminished credibility to a program in the eyes of an administrator or family member. Both administrators and parents value tangible results and documentation of progress as it can be a powerful motivator to help with adherence and long-term engagement in weight loss or other health promotion programs. Many body composition methods, such as skinfold calipers, air displacement plethysmography, or DEXA, are impractical for continued use, especially in the pediatric population, as they can be uncomfortable and time-consuming or require a large space. While these methods provide useful and beneficial information, frequent testing to monitor progress is not cost-effective or feasible.

InBody allows for systematic monitoring and evaluation of health risk in a practical, cost-effective manner. It provides a detailed health profile, which can be used to increase motivation and participation as well as establish program credibility. Accurate measures of body composition in the youth population yield a more comprehensive examination of growth patterns and the efficacy of diet or medical interventions. By monitoring trends, interventions can be planned and evaluated to effectively reduce health risks associated with malnourishment or obesity. In individuals that have already been diagnosed with chronic disease, body composition can assist with tracking disease progression and effects of drug or lifestyle interventions. Using the body composition history, administrators and family members will be able to observe positive or negative trends associated with the individual’s health status. Providing educational material to families and professionals is crucial to ensure optimization of a healthy, nurturing environment.

Through education and tangible, objective data, families will be able to observe the outcomes of lifestyle modifications and the direct impact on the health of their children. Thus, by utilizing the InBody result sheets, professionals can easily understand the child or adolescent health status and educate entire families on good lifestyle behaviors and habits to create the foundation for healthy growth and development.

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