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How to define body composition: what it is and how we do it

Bodystat has been in the advanced body composition analysis industry since 1990. We’re a global company and yet no matter where we are in the world, some of the first questions we’re asked are what is body composition? How does it relate to body mass index, or BMI? And how do we measure it? So, we thought we’d help.

What is body composition?

Essentially, body composition describes what the body is made up of, which is predominantly body fat, lean muscle mass, bones and, of course, water. Body composition is important because it gives us the opportunity to find out how healthy we really are, and not just on paper.

What does BMI measure?

Imagine two people. Both weigh the same and they’re the same height. The only difference is one is clearly very muscular, and the other obese. It is obvious to look at them that both do not have the same body composition and one is certainly healthier than the other. Yet, if you were to only see their body mass index (BMI), which is calculated as weight divided by height squared, they would look the same on paper.

BMI is clearly not the best way to properly monitor your health, which is why it is now being generally disregarded as an informative calculation of your health status.

What’s the best body composition test?

There are several ‘gold standard’ methods to measure body composition to true scientific and professional standards; however these can be expensive, inconvenient, time consuming and are usually only available to select health professionals.

These include DXA, or dual-energy X-ray obsorbtiometry, which measures bone mineral density and, by process of subtraction, soft tissue absorption and underwater, or hydrostatic weighing, which measures buoyancy relative to body mass and calculates fat free mass using Archimedes’ famous principle. How else can we calculate body composition?

Thankfully, other more convenient methods to measure body composition have since been developed. Each differs in accuracy and each takes an alternative approach to body composition analysis. They are skin fold callipers, bioelectrical impedance, and scales

In the next blog, we’ll talk about which method is the most accurate and why.

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