Body composition of women and men with complete motor paraplegia

Lisa A. Beck, Jeffry L. Lamb, Elizabeth J. Atkinson, Lisa Ann Wuermser, Shreyasee Amin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine body composition, including the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and total body fat, in women and men with complete motor paraplegia and to make comparisons with able-bodied controls. Methods: In 13 subjects with traumatic, complete motor paraplegia (six women, seven men) and 39 sex-, age-, and BMI-matched controls from the community (18 women, 21 men), we measured total and regional (upper extremities, trunk, and lower extremities) lean and fat mass using total body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Results: Both women and men with paraplegia had significantly lower lean mass in their lower extremities, as would be expected, and in their total body when compared with controls. However, they had significantly greater lean mass in their upper extremities than controls (4.4 kg vs. 3.6 kg, P = 0.004 and 8.6 kg vs. 6.7 kg, P < 0.001 in women and men, respectively); all subjects with paraplegia studied used manual wheelchairs. Although total body fat mass was significantly greater in women (P = 0.010) and men (P=<0.001) with paraplegia compared with controls, for the equivalent total body fat mass, BMI was actually lower in women and men with paraplegia than controls (e.g. 20.2 kg/m2 vs. 25.0 kg/m2, respectively). Conclusion: We report on body composition in persons with complete motor paraplegia, including women on whom limited information is currently available. Our results support the need to define better assessments of obesity in both women and men following spinal cord injury, particularly of central body fat distribution, as BMI underestimates adiposity in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-365
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • Body composition
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Fat tissue mass
  • Lean tissue mass
  • Paraplegia
  • Percent body fat
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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