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The Relationship Between BMI and Percent Body Fat, Measured by Bioelectrical Impedance, in a Large Adult Sample is Curvilinear and Influenced by Age and Sex

Meeuwsen S|Horgan GW|Elia M
Clinical Nutrition 29 (2010) 560-566
Objective: The study aimed to establish the effects of age and gender interactions on BMIe% fat relationships over a wide range of BMI and age. It also aimed to examine controversies regarding linear or curvilinear BMIe% fat relationships.
Subjects /Methods: Body composition was measured using validated bio-impedance equipment (Bodystat) in a large self-selected sample of 23,627 UK adults aged 18 – 99 (99% ≤70) years, of which 11,582 were males with a mean BMI of 26.3 ± 4.7 (sd) kg/m2, and 12,044 females, with a mean BMI of 25.7 ± 5.1 kg/m2. Multiple regression analysis was used.
Results: BMI progressively increased with age in women and plateaued between 40 and 70 years in men. At a fixed BMI, body fat mass increased with age (1.9 kg/decade), as did % fat (1.1 – 1.4% per decade). The relationship between BMI and % fat was found to be curvilinear (quadratic) rather than linear, with a weaker association at lower BMI. There was also a small but significant age-gender interaction
Conclusion: The association between BMI and % body fat is not strong, particularly in the desirable BMI range, is curvilinear rather than linear, and is affected by age.
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