The use of computed tomography (CT) has had limited application in body composition research due primarily to radiation exposure. Its use has primarily been limited to single slice acquisitions in the abdomen and mid-thigh whereby information on adipose tissue distribution and muscle cross-sectional area have been derived. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has resulted in important advances in body composition phenotyping. MRI studies are safe and instruments are available in most hospital or related facilities. Expense is a limiting factor. The importance of both CT and MRI is that both methods acquire cross-sectional images of the body at pre-defined anatomic locations. Image analysis software then allows estimation of the adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and organs based on pixel intensity. Acquiring images at predefined intervals and integrating the area between slices allows reconstruction of an entire organ of interest such as skeletal muscle mass. A significant advancement made possible by these imaging methods has been the characterization of a tissue distribution, such as adipose tissue where it is now possible to quantify visceral, subcutaneous, and intermuscular depots at the regional and whole-body level.
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