The first application of BIA occurred on Mount McKinley, Alaska in 1981. Dr. William Mills MD, an Admiral in the US Navy, initiated a study to assess the hydration status of soldiers in high altitude, cold weather environments. There was one reference paper by Hoffer in 1969 that indicated a hand to foot whole body BIA measurement could predict total body water. With the encouragement of Jan Nyboer MD, Dsc the Mount McKinley soldier hydration project was started.
Four BIA instruments were ordered by the US Navy from RJL Systems that had to be designed and built to handle the cold weather on top of Mount McKinley. The instruments were applied to soldiers along with analyzing samples of blood and urine at approximately 10,000 feet. Electrode placement was the same as is used today. The dollar amount of the Navy contract was enough to put months of research and development into designing an accurate, dependable, and safe instrument that could be used on humans.
The results of BIA measurements compared to blood and urine analysis were very encouraging. This inspired RJL Systems to build additional instruments for scientific research. Shortly thereafter, Hank Lukaski at the USDA in Grand Forks, ND was one of the first to publish a paper on BIA and body composition. Today there are thousands of papers and abstracts on BIA to predict body composition.
1. Hoffer, E.C., Meador, C.K. and Simpson, D.C.:Correlation of whole body impedance with total body water volume. J. Appl. Physiol., 27: 531, 1969.
2. Lukaski, H.C., Johnson, P.E., Bolonchuk, W.W., Lykken, G.I.: Assessment of fat free mass using bio-electrical impedance measurements of the human body Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 41: 810-817, 1985.
The Future of BIA:
BIA science is evolving from a statistical machine for assessing body composition to a diagnostic tool that may someday be used to illustrate the progress of disease and health. It took 50 years for electrocardiography to be where it is today from when first developed by Willem Einthoven in 1901. BIA will likely follow the same path.