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Tuesday, 09 September 2014 11:35

What’s on Your Bathroom Scale?

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Besides measuring waist circumference where that dangerous body fat frequently occurs, it’s also important to look at body fat percentage.

This means knowing the amount of fat you have relative to the amount of lean body tissue (muscle, bones, water, organs etc) you have in your body. This measurement is also a clear indication of fitness level regardless of your body weight. Most people already know that having a larger waist (usually 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men) can predict serious health conditions. The same applies for having a higher body fat percentage. Both these factors mean you may be more likely to develop obesity-related conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes. So besides your waist circumference, body fat percentage is also a good measurement to be aware of.

There are several ways to access body fat percent. Popular by both medical and fitness experts is the bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). From the privacy of your own CMWM clinic, this method offers the easiest and most convenient method by integrating advanced technology and traditional BIA into a special scale. At CMWM we use a highly calibrated and professional Tanita scale which provides this measurement in a just a few minutes. Many patients ask how our scale does this so efficiently and accurately by just simply weighing on it. Here’s the answer. It’s done through a process called Bioelectrical Impedance.

This bioelectrical impedance measurement is called body impedance and is measured when a small, but very safe electrical signal is passed through the body through the legs. This is carried through the body by water and fluids. Impedance is greatest in fat tissue, which contains 10%-20% water, while fat-free mass, which contains 70%-75% water, allows the signal to pass much more easily. By using the impedance measurements along with a person's height, weight, gender and age, it calculates the percentage of body fat, fat-free mass, hydration level, and other body composition values. A more complicated measurement and probably much more inconvenient manner for obtaining the BIA, normally uses underwater weighing as its method of reference.

Using BIA to estimate person's body fat works best when the body is properly hydrated, so when you come in for your weekly weigh-in don’t skip drinking water just because you want to weigh less! What happens is that when a person is dehydrated, fat percentage can be overestimated. The scale will provide you with a number than is probably higher than your actual fat percentage is. (Other factors that can affect hydration include not drinking enough fluids, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol [even the night/day before], heavily exercising or eating just before weighing. Even certain prescription drugs or diuretics, illness, or a woman's menstrual cycle can also affect this hydration level.)

What is suggested is that patients come in for their weekly weigh-ins under the same consistent conditions. Drink the same amount of water and come in at the same time of day each week if you can. This will provide you with the best results, even though it seems like your weight will register higher due to the water content. Just remember if you do the same thing every week (drink the same amount of water, eat the same amount of food) you should still see a weekly weight loss (as long as you are following your program of course!)This gives you a more precise assessment of your body fat percentage.

But getting back to what exactly is bioelectrical impedance, the Tanita company has developed a simplified version of BIA that uses a more simple analysis. In this system, two footpad electrodes utilizing pressure contact (simply stepping on the scale) are actually located on the platform of this electronic scale. The body fat analyzer automatically measures weight and then impedance. Specific computer software, a small microprocessor is imbedded in the scale and uses measured impedance, the patient’s gender, height , age and weight, that all determines body fat percentage based on specific equation formulas. Tanita's reference method is called DEXA. Through multiple regression analysis, a statistical technique that predicts values of one variable on the basis of two or more other variables, Tanita has derived standard formulas to determine body fat percentage and other pertinent readings.

What’s great about the Tanita method is that it has all the perks of traditional BIA with greater ease of use, speed, and convenience (you literally do not have to weigh yourself under water to get this number! And it’s more accurate than home scale versions). You automatically get that and other important readings summarized on your weigh-in receipt (including Body Mass Index, another medical health predictor based on your current weight) every week that you come in to the clinic.

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