The human body is made up of several elements, all of which collectively contribute to its overall weight. These include bones, body fluids, muscle, and fat. When we measure a person’s weight, it shows the collective weight contributed by all these factors.
Your Body Fat Percentage is
What is Body Fat?
The human body is made up of several elements, all of which collectively contribute to its overall weight. These include bones, body fluids, muscle, and fat. When we measure a person's weight, it shows the collective weight contributed by all these factors. Tools like the BMI calculator showcase the body's mass index by taking into account this overall weight and the person's height.
However, the BMI calculator cannot differentiate between weight gained by lean muscle and weight gained by body fat. This differentiation is essential because while the former weight gain is healthy and appropriate, the latter denotes the person not being in the best of health, and perhaps even at risk for ailments like diabetes, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders, among others.
Various methods to calculate body fat
As seen above, it is necessary to differentiate between weight attributable to lean muscle and body fat, to determine the correct cause of excessive weight or obesity, if it is prevalent in a person.
There are several methods to measure one's body fat. For optimum accurate results, it is best to consult trained professionals for this purpose. The commonest method of measuring body fat is, using calipers. Calipers (clamps) are used to gather the skin folds at various junctures of the body and the health professionals then apply certain equations to estimate the quantum of fat in the body by measuring the thickness of the folds.
Another oft-used method is the DEXA scan i.e., Dual x-ray absorptiometry scan. This scan is a preferred method of estimating body fat because it also considers bone weight in its calculations. Hydrostatic weighing (that requires the person to get submerged under water to compare his/her weight out of water), and Bod Pod machine are two accurate but expensive methods to calculate the percentage of body fat.
How to measure your body fat?
A very simple calculator used to measure body fat is the one that considers a person's height and waist circumference. It is called the Waist to Height Ratio Calculator.
Another calculator, which is used by the US Navy and is based on the Hodgdon-Beckett formula, considers the circumference of waist, hips, neck, and the person's height to measure their body fat. The Navy Body Fat Percentage (NBFP) as this measurement is called, applies different formulae for men and women. For men, the NBFP is measured as Density = -0.191 × Log10(waist - neck) + 0.155 × Log10(height) + 1.032, whereas for women it is measured as Density = -0.350 × Log10(waist + hip - neck) + 0.221 × Log10(height) + 1.296. This is considered one of the most accurate ways to measure body fat.
Acceptable body fat measurements
While the definitions of what can be considered a healthy body fat percentage and what cannot, differ according to various socio-cultural notions, ethnicities, age, gender, and even concepts of beauty, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has stipulated certain ratios from the perspective of health.
Perse, 8-19% is considered a healthy range of body fat for men, whereas for women this bracket is 21-33%. However, ACE estimates do not consider the factor of age on body fat; a lacuna that is compensated for by the Jackson & Pollock research. Jackson & Pollock opine that for a 20-year-old man, the acceptable body fat percentage is 8.5%, whereas, for a woman of the same age, it is 17.7%. In contrast, for a 55-year-old man, this number goes to 20.9%, and for a 55-year-old woman, it goes to 26.3%.
Obesity – a burgeoning problem
On a global scale, obesity, which is caused by the accumulation of excessive fat deposits, has been growing to extremely alarming levels. The rapid growth in adult and child obesity, even in countries from regions like SE Asia that were traditionally immune to the problem, has caused experts to label obesity as a public health issue. Lack of physical exercise and excessive consumption of junk food are the main culprits of this situation.
In the interest of global public health wellness, it is imperative to start taking cognizance of one's body fat percentage and altering one's dietary and exercise habits towards a healthier future.