New Body Fat Test Developed
Researchers have developed a simpler, more accurate way of estimating body fat – the relative fat index.
The new tool is thought to be more accurate than the standard body mass index (BMI) which is usually used to measure body fat.
Body mass index
BMI is a way of calculating whether someone’s weight is healthy for their height. It calculates weight divided by height, and the result aligns with the categories: underweight, healthy, overweight and obese. There are separate BMI charts for adults and children.
There has been criticism of the tactic of using BMI to decide whether someone is overweight, as there are problems with the way it classifies people. For example, if someone is particularly muscular, this can give a higher BMI even if the person has a healthy level of body fat.
Also, BMI doesn’t distinguish between bone mass, muscle mass and fat; and it doesn’t account for gender.
Now researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, US, have developed a simpler, more accurate method of estimating body fat.
The researchers examined more than 300 possible formulas for estimating body fat, and used a database of 12,000 adult who had completed a health survey.
They tested their formula, the ‘relative fat mass’, on 3,500 people and compared the results to their outcomes from a high-tech body scan, DXA – which is an accurate way of measuring body fat, bone and muscle.
Tried and tested formula
To work out relative fat mass, people will just need their height and waist circumference. They can then use the formula developed. There are separate formulas for men and women.
The study found that relative fat mass was more accurate than BMI when it came to estimating whole-body fat percentage in men and women, and also reduced the amount of people who would be classified incorrectly as being overweight or obese.
Classifications of body fat
One of the authors of the study, Richard Bergman, said: “The relative fat mass formula has now been validated in a large database.
“It is a new index for measuring body fatness that can be easily accessible to health practitioners trying to treat overweight patients who often face serious health consequences like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.”
The researchers will continue with studies identifying what ranges of body fat percentage are considered normal or abnormal in relation to obesity-related health problems.
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