For a better measure of overall health, try body fat check

For a better measure of overall health, try body fat check

If you want to know how healthy you are, step off the bathroom scale and get out the skinfold calipers. New research suggests that body fat percentage is a much more reliable measure of overall health than weight.

After studying data from about 3,000 people in Israel, scientists at Tel Aviv University concluded that body fat percentage should be the new standard for determining overall health and the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

For now, the prevailing metric for overall health is body mass index, which is based on weight and height measurements. Yet the true measure of obesity is body fat. That leads to something of a paradox: Someone with a high body fat percentage can be considered obese while still having a “normal” body weight.

That’s where the recent study sheds light. After measuring body-mass index, body composition and blood markers over several years, about one-third of the study participants were identified as “obese with normal weight.” That included about 27% of men and nearly 39% of women. The researchers also found a significant correlation between “obesity with normal weight” and elevated fat, cholesterol and sugar in the blood.

The study illustrated the imprecision of the body mass index. Thirty percent of men and 10% of women were technically considered overweight despite having a normal body fat percentage.

The researchers said relying solely on body mass index can create a false sense of security.

That’s where skinfold calipers, which look like a blunt version of a crab’s claw, come in. Their little pinch can be more revealing than a bathroom scale.

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