Advances in the technological qualities of imaging modalities for assessing human body composition have been stimulated by accumulating evidence that individual components of body composition have significant influences on chronic disease onset, disease progression, treatment response, and health outcomes. Importantly, imaging modalities have provided a systematic method for differentiating phenotypes of body composition that diverge from what is considered normal, that is, having low bone mass (osteopenia/osteoporosis), low muscle mass (sarcopenia), high fat mass (obesity), or high fat with low muscle mass (sarcopenic obesity). Moreover, advances over the past three decades in the sensitivity and quality of imaging not just to discern the amount and distribution of adipose and lean tissue but also to differentiate layers or depots within tissues and cells is enhancing our understanding of distinct mechanistic, metabolic, and functional roles of body composition within human phenotypes. In this review, we focus on advances in imaging technologies that show great promise for future investigation of human body composition and how they are being used to address the pandemic of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
© 2015 New York Academy of Sciences.