Accurate Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage

Body fat percentage can be measured in a number of ways. These include calipers, scales, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), and the gold standard, underwater weighing and DEXA which can be difficult to use on a regular basis.


In the caliper test, a portion of the skin is pinched to determine the amount of fat that can be pinched off from the muscle. This test can be awkward for people who are obese or who have plenty of fat because they may have to endure the emotional trauma of having their body fat pinched from them, particularly if the test is performed in the middle of a crowded gym.

In addition to this downside, caliper measurement can only determine the subcutaneous fat. As people grow older, fats can buildup around their organs. This is referred to as visceral fat, which has lately become significant in the news, but how is visceral fat measured?

Bioelectrical impedance analysis

The BIA technique is used to determine the internal body composition. In this method, a small, safe current is used to determine impedance to that particular current against various tissues.

The technique is based on the understanding that fat is a bad conductor of current and serves as an insulator, while muscle contains mostly electrolytes, water, and minerals, and thus is considered as a good conductor of current.

When different frequencies are used, the current enters into different types of tissues and based on algorithms, the amount of that tissue present in the body can be calculated. This is calculated from inspecting the impedance to the flow of current at that particular frequency.

The BIA measurements will include both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat and as a result, may provide higher fat readings when compared to the caliper test, which can be considered as more accurate values than the caliper tests.

However there are disadvantages to the BIA method, which are worth noting.

Skin resistance

A major obstacle to overcome in BIA is skin resistance. Ideally, the skin should be dry and thin so that the small, safe current can easily travel through the body. Some areas like the palms of hands or the soles of feet will have sweaty or thick skin which will impact the outcomes and give conflicting results which would be difficult to monitor over time.

Stabilization of fluid

In the BIA method, it is assumed that fluid is equally distributed across the body for the algorithms to be highly accurate. When we stand up, more fluid will be present in the legs than in the arms. The measurements will be most accurate where people are made to lie down for a few minutes, this will enable the fluids to stabilize and evenly distribute throughout the body.

Tetrapolar measurements

In this method, BIA measurements are taken using four points, typically the feet and the hands. There are certain scales and hand-held devices that can only measure from the feet or from the hands. This can be a problem because current always take the least resistant path, so if a measurement is made from one foot to another, the top half of the body will be missed. In a similar way, the reverse is true, i.e., if measurement is made from one hand to another hand, then only the trunk and arms will be measured.

Ideal measurement is taken using electrodes on one wrist and hand to one ankle and foot. These types of measurements are generally performed on the right-hand side of the body. This is because the heart is located on the left side of the body and causes more impedance to the current flow, which gives a false reading, increasing the fat percentage higher than it should be.

To find out more about accurate measurements in body composition, visit

About Bodystat

Bodystat Ltd

Bodystat Limited is a Global Market Leader in Body Composition Analysis using Bioelectrical-Impedance Analysis (BIA). Bodystat focuses on the research, development, manufacture and marketing of innovative bio-impedance products using proven techniques, which are safe, reliable and deliver reproducible results.

Our Story, so far

In 1990, our Managing Director and CEO moved from the sunny coastal landscape of picturesque South Africa, to set up Bodystat on the 'not-so-warm' Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. He moved his whole family with two young children, holding only the belief in Bodystat and the technology.

Bodystat began from those early days in one room in the family home, where the whole family were involved in the business.

These were tough, nail-biting times, encompassing long days and even longer nights, like most new business start-ups. Before the days of internet and email snail-mail was the only method of advertising, and there were times when we wondered if Bodystat would make it.

Through tremendous hard work and perseverance, and a strong belief in the technology and product, Bodystat eventually became known as one of the world leaders in BIA (bio-electrical impedance analysis).

Due to those early days of dedicated research into understanding everything there was to know about the product and technology, we still pride ourselves as experts in this field. Bodystat is now located in the office building in the picture - a long way from one small room in the family home!

We always have considered ourselves a family business, and all our customers are welcomed into our family unit. Pick up the phone and you speak directly to us. We are passionate in what we do, dedicated to share our passion with you, our customers, and believe in the future of BIA.

The possibilities are infinite!

Join us in the discovery of new methods in which BIA can help improve the understanding of the human body.

Why BIA, Why Bodystat?

  • Measures fat-free mass and calculates fat mass
  • Some models include measurement or calculation of body cell mass, total body water, intracellular water extracellular water
  • Safe, non-invasive, fast, and inexpensive
  • Lightweight, portable devices which can be used at the bedside
  • May be useful to assess total body water in individuals with altered metabolic function
  • Excellent consistency and precision for repeated measurements.

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Last updated: Jul 14, 2018 at 7:26 PM

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