Body composition analysis by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in young preschool children

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Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is considered a specific method for measuring body composition to assess obesity and osteoporosis, although few studies have been conducted in preschool children. The aim of this study was to provide sex - and age-specific references for bone mineral density (BMD), bone mineral content (BMC), fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) normative data for children aged 2 to <6 years.


One hundred and eighty seven healthy white children from Buenos Aires City suburbs, Argentina, were studied by the Lunar DPX-L DXA, pediatric software: BMC less head (g), BMD (g/cm2), FM (%) and FFM (g).


BMD and BMC increased significantly with age (P<0.0001), but only BMD was significantly different between boys and girls of similar age, being greater for boys (P=0.013). FM was not significantly different among the various age groups of boys and girls. However, the FFM/height was higher in boys and the BMC/FFM was higher in girls. The Z-scores and centile curves were derived separately for each sex and age. Q-Q detrended plots and LMS curves produced robust, unbiased fits that generated references for the 3rd, 50th and 97th percentiles for BMD, BMC, FM and FFM data, respectively.


These DXA scans add to the scarcity of accurate measurements of body composition of white young children. The data analyses provided greater accuracy, particularly at the upper and lower ends of the distribution, which is important in clinical settings for identification of children with impaired body composition.

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