Relative influences of sex, race, environment, and HIV infection on body composition in adults

Donald P. Kotler, Donald M. Thea, Moonseong Heo, David B. Allison, Ellen S. Engelson, Jack Wang, Richard N. Pierson, Michael St Louis, Gerald T. Keusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Background: The factors that control body composition in disease are uncertain. Objective: We planned to compare the relative influences of HIV infection, sex, race, and environment on body composition. Methods: We analyzed results of body composition studies performed by bioelectrical impedance analysis in 1415 adults from 2 cohorts: white and African American men and women from the United States, and African men and women (279 HIV- infected and 1136 control). The effects of sex and HIV infection on weight, body cell mass, and fat-free mass were analyzed by using both unadjusted and age-, weight-, and height-adjusted data. Results: Control men weighed more and had more body cell mass and fat-free mass than did control women, although control women had more fat. The strongest correlates with body composition were height and weight, followed by sex, HIV infection, age, environment, and race. Control men and women weighed more and had more body cell mass, fat-free mass, and fat than did HIV-infected men. However, differences in body composition between HIV-infected and control groups were strongly influenced by sex. Of the differences in weight between HIV-infected and uninfected subjects, fat-free mass accounted for 51% in men but only 18% in women, in whom the remainder was fat. Sex effects were similar in African and American groups. Conclusions: Sex has a marked effect on the changes in body composition during HIV infection, with women losing disproportionately more fat than men. Sex-related differences in body composition were narrower in the HIV-infected groups. Race and environment had smaller effects than sex and HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-439
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • African Americans
  • Africans
  • BIA
  • Bioelectrical impedance analysis
  • Body composition
  • HIV infection
  • Malnutrition
  • Men
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Whites
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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