Did you know that nearly one-third of the world’s population meets the criteria for being overweight or obese? Obesity rates have risen across all age groups and genders. Older individuals and women have the greatest incidence.
There is some good news, though. Some developed country’s obesity rates have leveled off over the previous few years.
Traditionally, body weight measurement relied only on what the scale read. Researchers have added factors into the equation to reflect an individual’s body fat. Body types vary such that a basic weight scale may not reflect the true picture.
A person with a high percentage of muscle mass may weigh more than someone with a higher ratio of body fat. This has led to the creation of tools for detecting an individual’s body fat percentage. But how accurate are body fat scales?
Keep reading to learn more about checking your body fat percentage.
Finding the Right Diet Plan for a Healthy Weight
One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to diets. Most people who have tried to lose weight will agree. Because a diet worked for your friend does not mean it will work for you.
Men and women don’t respond the same to different types of weight management programs either. Thus, it’s valuable to do your research and speak with experts to help you find the program that is right for you.
You may wish to take a web-site quiz that can give you a more tailored option for your weight loss program. This quiz helps you explore factors that trigger your weight gain. You can also begin to understand why previous diets haven’t worked for you.
What is BMI?
The body mass index (BMI) measurement was first explained in the mid-1800s. BMI wasn’t part of medical practice until the 1972 study published in the Journal of Chronic Diseases. In the 1980s, the World Health Organization adopted BMI to define obesity.
In 1998, the National Institutes of Health described the link between BMI and risk of disease.
While BMI has become widely used, some question its accuracy. Studies show that BMI demonstrates a low sensitivity and wide variability between individuals. BMI does not consider the difference in the percentage of body fat.
Body fat percentage and distribution varies based on age, sex, and ethnicity. Thus, using BMI to assess disease risk may be misleading.
For example, cardiac risk is associated with excess fat in the muscle and liver. There is also an increased risk in individuals with an increased fat to lean mass ratio. This term for this finding is metabolically-obese normal-weight.
An individual may have a scale weight within the normal range but have high-fat levels. This increases the risk of diabetes Type 2, high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiac disease. Thus, healthcare providers should check patients’ body fat percentage to screen for risks.
Methods for Measuring Body Fat
Today, the percentage of body fat can be measured by several different methods.
About 50% of fat stores lie below the skin. Thus, skinfold measurement can help estimate body fat percentage. It’s best if the same person takes the measurements each time. This increases the validity and reliability of the results.
You should avoid taking measurements following exercise. Water transfers to the skin with physical exertion and will skew the results.
The practitioner takes skinfold measurements using specific callipers in 3 different locations. These locations are different for men and women as fat distribution is different. An equation is then used to calculate the estimated body composition.
Using a tape measure, determine the circumference of the neck and waist. Female measurements should also include the hip circumference. Always measure at the widest point and don’t compress the skin.
According to the United States Army’s procedure, the circumference measures and height are entered into a formula. This determines the estimated percentage of body fat.
Body Fat Scales
Today you may buy home scales that estimate your body fat percentage. These scales use bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).
This measure is taken by passing a very weak electrical current through the body. A calculation is made based on the resistance met by the current. Body fat produces more resistance to electrical current.
Thus, greater resistance indicates higher body fat mass. These scales differ between manufacturers. Some scales measure body weight and calculate your BMI.
Others allow you to enter more information, such as gender, age, and height. These would allow a higher estimation of body fat percentage.
A dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan uses low amounts of radiation. It measures body fat, lean muscle and mineral composition in various parts of your body. This test is mainly used in research.
Hydrodensitometry involves placing the person underwater and measuring the volume that is displaced. The individual’s body mass and volume are then used to calculate the bone density. The body density is then entered in an equation to determine the body fat percentage.
How Accurate are Body Fat Scales?
A study published in the British Medical Journal looked at the benefit of using BIA for routine measurements. They found that lean and fat mass using BIA results were more reliable when measured by experts. The expert calculations demonstrated plausible values and correlations between high BMI and high fat.
Machine-generated BIAs produced substantially different results compared to expert calculations. Use of bioelectrical impedance provides a robust measurement of body composition. But this study did not recommend machine-generated outputs as reliable measures.
Consumer Reports tested 6 digital scales advertised to show weight and body fat. Some scales also calculated BMI as well. They first measured how accurate the weights were.
Seven men and eight women weighed on an electronic lab scale and then on each of the test scales. Five of the body-fat scales reported accurate weights. One scale repeatedly weighed 6 to 10 pounds above the lab scale.
They also rated the scales on their ability to gauge body fat. They compared the readings from these scales to a Bod Pod located at Sacred Heart University. This is a benchmark tool for measuring body fat.
The results were “unimpressive: None was very accurate”.
Are You Striving for Healthy Living?
Everyone’s body is unique. We respond differently to diet and exercise. We also know that maintaining a healthy weight, diet, and exercise decreases the risk of many diseases.
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