Relationship between body mass, lean mass, fat mass, and limb bone cross-sectional geometry: Implications for estimating body mass and physique from the skeleton.

08 May 2018

OBJECTIVES: Estimating body mass from skeletal dimensions is widely practiced, but methods for estimating its components (lean and fat mass) are poorly developed. The ability to estimate these characteristics would offer new insights into the evolution of body composition and its variation relative to past and present health. This study investigates the potential of long bone cross-sectional properties as predictors of body, lean, and fat mass. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Humerus, femur and tibia midshaft cross-sectional properties were measured by peripheral quantitative computed tomography in sample of young adult women (n = 105) characterized by a range of activity levels. Body composition was estimated from bioimpedance analysis. RESULTS: Lean mass correlated most strongly with both upper and lower limb bone properties (r values up to 0.74), while fat mass showed weak correlations (r ≤ 0.29). Estimation equations generated from tibial midshaft properties indicated that lean mass could be estimated relatively reliably, with some improvement using logged data and including bone length in the models (minimum standard error of estimate = 8.9%). Body mass prediction was less reliable and fat mass only poorly predicted (standard errors of estimate ≥11.9% and >33%, respectively). DISCUSSION: Lean mass can be predicted more reliably than body mass from limb bone cross-sectional properties. The results highlight the potential for studying evolutionary trends in lean mass from skeletal remains, and have implications for understanding the relationship between bone morphology and body mass or composition.