Research Supervisor Connect

How reliable are body composition monitoring scales?


This project aims to determine the accuracy and precision of body composition monitoring scales that are commonly available to the general public (e.g. wireless tracking devices).


Associate Professor Amanda Salis.

Research location

Camperdown - Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders

Program type



There are an increasing number of products on the market that estimate body composition (fat mass and lean mass) via the principle of bioelectrical impedance. Many of these products wirelessly synchronise with websites and mobile technology, providing users with the ability to track their data over time.

While bioelectrical impedance provides reasonably accurate and precise estimates of body composition in people who have a stable body composition, they are known to provide poor estimates of body composition when people are undergoing changes in body composition, such as during diet and exercise programs. Despite this, members of the public frequently use such devices during efforts to lose body fat or gain lean body mass, leaving them vulnerable to potential adverse effects of inaccurate feedback about the impact of lifestyle changes on their bodies.

This project will compare the precision and accuracy of popular, publicly available body composition monitoring scales in determining fat mass and lean mass during dynamic weight loss in obese women, as compared against gold-standard methodology for assessing body composition (i.e. the 4-compartment model combining dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, air displacement plethysmography and deuterium dilution, as well as magnetic resonance imaging / spectroscopy and the determination of muscle strength). This project is part of a larger, ongoing trial that has been funded by a highly competitive grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia (The TEMPO Diet Trial - Type of Energy Manipulation for Promoting optimum metabolic health and body composition in Obesity).

As part of an internationally recognised and multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians, it is envisaged that by demonstrating the extent and direction of the error in estimating body composition during weight loss as assessed by publicly available body composition monitoring scales, and by disseminating the results widely, member of the public will be able to make better-informed choices about how they respond to apparent changes in their body composition as assessed by such devices.

Additional information

Benefits to the successful candidate
• As part of The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders at the Charles Perkins Centre, you will be part of an internationally recognized multidisciplinary research environment dedicated to reducing obesity and associated complications
• PhD candidates will be mentored for submission of a competitive application for an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students) or an equivalent award for international students. Further details.
• Opportunity for a Top-Up Scholarship for APA or UPA- or other scholarship-funded PhD students of high standing, with the possibility of Top-Up Scholarship extension for students who are productive in publishing their research on this topic
• You will receive mentoring to help you develop your career, with individual and group training on scientific writing, conference presentation skills etc
• You will have opportunities to present your research findings at local, national and potentially also at an international biomedical conference
• You will have opportunities to publish your research findings in world-class peer-reviewed biomedical journals of high standing

Selection criteria
• An undergraduate degree in science, medicine or other health discipline (e.g. exercise physiology, nutrition & dietetics, nursing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology, biochemistry, physiology etc.)
• First class honours or equivalent (for PhD candidates)
• An excellent undergraduate academic record (for Masters and PhD candidates)
• Prospective PhD candidates must be eligible for a nationally competitive PhD scholarship, such as an Australian Postgraduate Award or a University Postgraduate Award (APA/UPA, for domestic students) or an equivalent award for international students. Further details.
• A strong commitment to health and medical research in the field of adult nutrition and lifestyle interventions, obesity, weight management and chronic disease prevention
• Exceptional communication skills that will enable you to engender support from participants volunteering for this randomised controlled trial
• Ability to work productively both within a team environment as well as independently as required
• Excellent organisational skills
• Reliability and punctuality

For further information

Please contact Associate Professor Amanda Salis

To apply
Please e-mail a cover letter addressing the above selection criteria, a copy of your CV as well as your academic transcript(s) to Associate Professor Amanda Salis. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 9

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