Human bodies are all the same, and yet each person’s body is also unique in terms of nutritional needs and chemical balances. To fully grasp the risks associated with excess body fat, like heart disease, researchers have continued searching for a way to measure fat accurately despite differences in age, race, gender, bone mass, exercise, and family history. Numerous studies, including one that was published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research (BJMBR), have identified a likely answer – body fat percentage (BFP).
What is BFP?
BFP is measured by comparing total fat mass (including both essential and storage body fat) to total body mass, expressed as a percentage. Men and women carry fat in different ways, so when considering healthy percentages, non-athletes are healthy at 14-22% body fat for men, and 21-31% for women (American Council on Exercise).
In most cases, as with the study in the BJMBR, bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) is used because lean muscle conducts electricity very well thanks to hydration and electrolytes, while body fat is anhydrous (i.e., water-less) and so conducts electricity poorly by comparison. We always recommend that a trained professional or physician conduct a body fat percentage test to determine risk factors. It’s critical to have up-to-date instruments and equipment, have an understanding of the equation and how age and gender need to be taken into account, and ensure you’re properly hydrated when the BIA is conducted.
Why Can Body Fat Percentage Be Used to Help Predict Cardiovascular Risks?
According to the BJMBR published study, the composition of body mass is just as important as body mass itself. Measurements like the waist-to-hip ratio cannot account for muscle beneath excess fat mass, nor can it account for racial differences in the expression of bone structure and how fat is carried. The study observed Han Chinese subjects, a group which is likely to have their obesity rates underestimated, and found that high body fat percentages directly correlates to cardiovascular risk factors, including:
- Family history of obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
The study went on to conclude that abnormally high body fat percentage is a strong predictor for these types of cardiovascular issues, especially since it can precisely differentiate between too much muscle with too little fat and too little muscle with too much fat. It also paves the way for clearly identifying risk factors for other metabolic disorders.
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to have a balanced perspective on the potential dangers of body fat while maintaining healthy goals. Using BFP in combination with other measurements, like BMI, can give you and your doctor a clearer picture of your body’s unique needs. When you’re accurately aware of your body fat percentage and any risks for cardiovascular problems, you can take appropriate actions based on solid medical data and get on a medical weight loss program that can help you get on track to full health.