Article adapted from Mail Online October 2014 issue
Time to throw out the weighing scales and track your body fat instead of your weight ? Why the experts say BMI is redundant
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Body Mass Index ( BMI ) has been used for years to measure whether we need to watch what we’re eating.
But numerous professionals have come forward saying that unless you are severely overweight tracking your health and fitness through BMI may be redundant.
As a result, sales of `speciality` scales – which measure your body composition including levels of muscle, fat and water – are soaring.
Some of these use Bio-electrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) technology to safely pass a signal through the body to tell you if you’re carrying too much fat, and where it’s being stored.
BMI involves dividing your weight in kgs by your height in metres squared to monitor weight and health.
But it fails to accurately assess your body fat as a muscly athlete might be classed as obese, despite carrying little or no body fat, simply because muscle is more dense – i.e. heavier – than fat.
At the other end of the scale, a slim person with little muscle mass and a stomach paunch could be classed as healthy, despite the fact that they may be carrying excessive fat around the waistline.
Dr David Ashton, an obesity expert and medical director at Healthier Weight, said: ‘The greatest concern is that BMI doesn’t address the critical issue of how much fat a person has in their body and where it is distributed.’
New products and guides are fast coming out in the hope of giving more accurate and helpful measures of health based on what your weight is made up of – rather than what it totals.
Tanita body composition monitors, for example, can help you track your fitness, measure body composition and lose excess fat using BIA.
Instead of simply reading your overall body mass and calculating your weight, they measure statistics such as weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass, body water, basal metabolic rate and visceral fat.
They’ve just brought out the Tanita BC-730, one of the first speciality BIA scales created for the home rather than the gym.
A spokesperson for Tanita says: ‘It’s incredibly important to monitor your body composition when losing weight.
When you exercise more or start dieting, your body composition will change, even if your weight stays the same.’
Low-calorie crash diets may produce speedy results, but the weight loss will most likely be from water and even healthy, lean muscle tissue. They can force your body into starvation mode, storing body fat rather than burning it – so even if you lose weight your body fat could increase.