Tag Archives: Fat Mass

Fat or Lean: What does Your BCA indicate?

One day a friend of mine came to me in a state of shock and disbelief. On asking she said, “Can you imagine a thin person dying of cardiac arrest?” I replied in affirmative.

Yes we do associate an obese person with all these diseases but the thin ones are also not spared. Our weight predisposes us towards these diseases but how much percentage of this weight is FAT is the determining factor. A research study done by Dr Anoop Misra studied 400 diabetics for relationship between diabetes and obesity. By conventional BMI (Body mass index) criteria (height in relation to weight), just 40 per cent of the subjects were classed as obese. But when body fat percentages were considered, 90 per cent of the total group were found to be obese.

This research definitely proves that not just quantity but quality also matters.

A conventional weighing scale can measure total body weight, but it cannot tell you how much of this weight is fat. The inner picture can be obtained by doing Body Composition Analysis or BCA. BCA describes the percentages of fat, bone and muscle in human bodies. A person who looks slim may have a high percentage of fat in the body. This person will be unaware of the risk his body composition poses. But BCA helps us in assessing this risk. An inappropriate Lean to fat mass ratio is a wake up call to improve our diet and lifestyle.

Numerous mechanisms and machines are available which compute fat percentages. Nowadays even weighing scales are being equipped to calculate the same. Let us see how to interpret the results (fat percentages) we get from these machines:

Body Fat Ranges (Percent)






Exceptionally Lean



Very Lean






Moderate Fat

25 and above

30 and above

High Fat

We should try to keep our body fat percentage in the lean bracket because both high as well as low fat percentages have adverse consequences. A high fat percentage poses a risk for development of obesity and diabetes and a lower fat percentage might make a person deficient in fat soluble vitamins or can even lead to poor reproductive function in females.

How to achieve a balance between lean and fat percentage; will discuss in subsequent issues.

Am I obese?

As famous this word is, so it has lots of definitions, identifications and classifications. Obesity is a trigger which when pulled takes us towards such lifestyle disorders which decrease our quality of life. A number of measures have been suggested for computing the risk or to find out whether a person falls in obese bracket.

Shall we find out the answer to the query: Am I obese?

Doctors, scientists and people working in the health care field have suggested diverse formulae and theories to ascertain obesity in classes. These theories and formulae measure different aspects and have their own benefits and shortcomings.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the one such formula which has found a wide acceptance. It is calculated as Weight (kg) / height (squared) (m2) and assesses body weight relative to height. It is a useful, indirect measure of body composition, because in most people it correlates highly with body fat.

With a BMI of

You are considered

Less than 18.5


18.5 – 22.9

Normal Weight

23 – 24.9


25 or above


BMI is not considered valid for infants, children, teenagers, pregnant or nursing women, adults over 65 years of age, very muscular people & endurance athletes such as runners.

Another technique finding popularity nowadays is Body Composition Analysis or BCA (For more on BCA). For all such conditions where BMI does not hold true BCA comes in at the rescue. Take a look at the following example:

These men have same height, weight & BMI, but have different percent body fat. Just one look at them and you can judge who is healthy and who is not but going by BMI both come in the overweight category. At this point BCA helps us in finding how much percent of our body weight is fat. The man in blue apart from having a higher BMI also seems to be suffering with abdominal obesity. Abdominal obesity can be judged by taking waist circumference measurements in adult men and women. Waist circumference values should be less than 90 cm for males and less than 80 cm for females. Most important complications of obesity are linked to upper body fat rather than overall adiposity which means that fat deposition around waist is far more dangerous compared to overall fat deposition.

Waist circumference can be used alone as an index or can be clubbed with hip circumference to ascertain the risk of heart diseases in people. Defined as waist to hip ratio or WHR should be >0 .80 for females and > 0.90 for males to steer away from these risks.

Little technical though and majorly used for research and field purposes Skin Fold thickness is another tool which helps in assessing subcutaneous fat (fat layer under the skin) thickness. It requires training to accurately measure SFT with specialized calipers. Fat prefers few locations for its deposition which can be measured to find out normal or excessive fat deposition.  Sites usually measured include biceps, triceps, sub-scapular (below the shoulder blade), suprailiac (lower abdomen), thigh and calf.

The stingiest classification of weight which might lead numerous people end up in overweight / obese category is Ideal body weight. It is a gender and height specific formulae which calculates the actual weight that a person should have on the current height. If your weight is more than 10% of IBW you come in the overweight bracket and a bad news if it is more than 20%.

In most cases a look at the person can tell whether the person is obese or not. Visual Inspection usually tells us the pattern of fat deposition in the body. Fat deposition around the area of and above the waist is commonly called as apple type obesity / android / male pattern obesity and weight gained around the hips and thigh area is pear type obesity / gynoid / female pattern obesity. Apple obesity is considered more dangerous than pear type because the type of fat cells deposited in this type are potentially more viable for causing lifestyle disorders.

Obesity a condition which takes away health, wealth and confidence from the sufferer is easy to diagnose. And with all these formulae and classifications it surely can be caught early. It depends on us whether we want to nip the bud in early stages or wait till the weight blows out of proportion. What do you say: Are you obese??

Image Courtesy: quickmedical.com