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We test the hypothesis that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)related weight loss is accompanied by inappropriately large losses of fat-free mass (FFM). Our secondary aims were to examine whether FFM increases during weight gain and to compare several techniques for measuring FFM change. FFM was measured at intervals averaging 5 months in 21 AIDS patients by means of skinfold thickness (SF), dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), total body water (TBW), and bioelectrical impedance using the equation of the manufacturer of the equipment (BIAE(EZComp)) and a published prediction equation (BIA(Segal)). The FFM content of weight loss was similar for SF (57%), DEXA (60%), TBW (55%) and BIA(EZComp) (65%), but the result from BIA(Segal) (78%) was higher. The results were close to predicted starvation values apart from the results with BIA(Segal), which were significantly higher than predicted values. Weight gain was also composed of a large proportion of FFM. There were large intermethod differences in measurements of absolute FFM, but for measuring changes in FFM, the bias between SF, DEXA, and TBW was minimal. The results of BIA vary with the prediction equation used. In this group of patients with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), weight loss was composed of a large proportion of FFM, but in general this is compatible with undernutrition as the underlying cause and does not support the hypothesis of excessive FFM catabolism in HIV disease. SF, DEXA, TBW, and BIA(Segal) show reasonable agreement for measuring body composition changes. This information should be considered in the design of future intervention studies for HIV-related wasting.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology

Publication Date





119 - 127