Comparison of Body Composition Assessed by Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry and BMI in Current and Former U.S. Navy Service Members

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Little is known of the diagnostic accuracy of BMI in classifying obesity in active duty military personnel and those that previously served. Thus, the primary objectives were to determine the relationship between lean and fat mass, and body fat percentage (BF%) with BMI, and assess the agreement between BMI and BF% in defining obesity.


Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in 462 males (20-91 years old) who currently or previously served in the U.S. Navy. A BMI of ≥ 30 kg/m2 and a BF% ≥ 25% were used for obesity classification.


The mean BMI (± SD) and BF% were 28.8 ± 4.1 and 28.9 ± 6.6%, respectively, with BF% increasing with age. Lean mass, fat mass, and BF% were significantly correlated with BMI for all age groups. The exact agreement of obesity defined by BMI and BF% was fair (61%), however, 38% were misclassified by a BMI cut-off of 30 when obesity was defined by BF%.


From this data we determined that there is a good correlation between body composition and BMI, and fair agreement between BMI and BF% in classifying obesity in a group of current and former U.S. Navy service members. However, as observed in the general population, a significant proportion of individuals with excess fat are misclassified by BMI cutoffs.