In adults and children, anthropometric measurements can be used to estimate body fat and lean body mass and assess their distribution and change over time. Body fat includes storage fat, found inter-and intra-muscularly, around the organs and gastrointestinal tract and subcutaneously, as well as lipids in bone marrow, central nervous tissue, mammary glands, and other organs. Normal-weight men and women have about 10 and 20% body fat, respectively. Lean body or fat-free mass is mostly water and protein with relatively small amounts of glyco-gen and minerals. Inadequate diets are associated with low body fat stores and reduced lean body mass in adults and growth failure of children. Consumption of food greater than requirements results in excessive body fat stores in adults and children. Body fat stores that are too low or too high are associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. The proportion and distribution of fat and fat-free mass varies with age, sex, genetics, disease, some hormones, and some drug treatments. Extensive physical exercise may be associated with increased muscle mass.
Different anthropometric measurements and combinations of measurements provide information on body composition and fat distribution and, therefore, nutritional status. The choice of measurements depends on the purpose of the assessment, the equipment available, the subjects being measured, and the skills of the observer making the measurements. Measurements can be made in laboratories, clinics, and hospitals using fixed, precision equipment with a high degree of accuracy, or in the field, including peoples' homes or rural centers, with lighter, robust, and portable equipment.
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