The Impact of Fat Mass on Decomposition Rate and Postmortem Interval Estimation




Giacomello, Emma

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It is unclear whether body mass, or fat mass, affects the rate of human decomposition. This study is aimed at further investigation of the true effect of fat mass on the rate of early to advanced human decomposition in order to provide more accurate postmortem interval (PMI) estimations. The decomposition processes of 16 females and 9 males in different Body Mass Index (BMI) categories were monitored. The Accumulated Degree Days (ADD) needed to reach skeletonization of the trunk were compared between the BMI categories and among obese and non-obese individuals. Additional subcutaneous fat measurements from nine of the donors were collected to determine if BMI is an accurate indicator of fat mass and if fat deposit locations differ between men and women. Blowfly larvae feeding preferences were also examined. The results indicate that there is not a significant difference in the rate of early to advanced decomposition between individuals in the different BMI categories but trends towards significance when the categories are collapsed into obese and non-obese individuals. Additionally, the results suggest that there may be a difference in decomposition rate during advanced and later stages of decomposition. It was found that BMI is not an accurate predictor of fat mass and that fat deposit locations do not differ between obese individuals. Lastly, it appears that maggots consume muscle tissue and not fat or skin. The results of this study suggest the need for further analyses into the effect of fat mass throughout the entire decomposition process.



decomposition, postmortem interval, fat mass, body mass index, total body score, accumulated degree days


Giacomello, E. M. (2022). The impact of fat mass on decomposition rate and postmortem interval estimation (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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