Body Composition: Why is it important?
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Body composition is a method of describing what an individual’s body is made of. When discussing weight, body composition is more accurate than BMI. This is because body composition analysis can accurately show changes in fat mass, muscle mass, and body fat percentage. This can help by validating services such as patient care, corporate wellness and personal training.
Today we will discuss the importance of body composition and why it matters when determining health…
What is body composition?
Two people of the same gender and body weight may look completely different from each other because they have a different body composition. The key components of health in individuals and populations are body composition and growth . Body Mass Index (BMI) is a manual measurement based on height and weight only. BMI doesn’t take body shape or weight distribution into account, which is why the reliability of BMI as a health measure is often criticised. There is no better time than now to gain a better understanding of body fat levels for short-term and long-term health, especially with the ongoing epidemic of obesity in both adults and children highlighted now more than ever.
Why is understanding body composition important?
It is universally agreed that too much fat poses a serious health risk. Problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, certain cancers and multiple other diseases are all related to obesity. It is also assumed by many that having as little fat as possible is healthy. However, being “thin” does not automatically reduce health risk in an individual. Being “thin” refers to weighing less than the recommended values based on age-height-weight tables. Being lean by definition means greater muscle mass development .
An important part of understanding an individual’s health is differentiating between what is healthy and what is not, especially when it comes to fat. Understanding and defining the differences between thinness, leanness, overweight and obesity is not only important for individuals but for health practitioners too. Understanding the differences between thinness, leanness, overweight and obesity is important for not only health practitioners but individuals too. With a better understanding of body composition, individuals and health practitioners can work together to develop a complete health assessment, monitor body fat and muscle growth to define exercise, diet and lifestyle changes accordingly, allowing individuals to take better control of their health.
So how are you measuring health?
BMI As we all know by now BMI is an inaccurate measure of an individual’s health. BMI is still used in clinical practices simply because this is the most affordable way of monitoring mass population health; however, it has many limitations. BMI is a poor tracking tool for individual weight changes as there is no way to identify if changes are fat or muscle. Equally, BMI cannot differentiate between healthy and toxic fats. BMI oversimplifies health and mortality prediction and ignores important factors that contribute to good health. BMI does not take into account age, ethnicity, level of physical activity - these factors are all essential in understanding body composition and health risk.
Skinfold Thickness Most people already hate going to their annual health check-up, and the skin fold test could make you want to go even less. Skinfold tests involve pinching your body fat to determine how much of it sits on top of your muscle, this is a useful way of figuring out where your biggest fat deposits are. There is a significant amount of training required to make sure healthcare workers measure fat deposits correctly, whilst the callipers themselves need to be cleaned constantly and re-calibrated.
Measuring Waist Whilst waist circumference and waist to hip ratio are not technically a way of measuring overall body fat percentage, they are effective measurements when assessing health problems related to central obesity. Abdominal fat is a very dangerous fat - this is because of the way the fat cells in your belly drain into your liver and pancreas. Measuring waist is really easy and gives doctors a fairly accurate sense of how “at-risk” an individual is for various obesity-related problems. The problem with manual measurements is that they can be between 3 and 30% inaccurate, depending on who takes measurements, where measurements are taken, and what measure is used.
DEXA A DEXA scan is not just an estimate of your fat as it is a scientific breakdown of exactly how much fat and muscle you have. DEXA stands for “Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry,”  DEXA was designed to measure bone density, however, by performing a simple calculation it uses the absorption properties of your body to figure out which bits are fat, and which are muscles. Unfortunately, DEXA scans are not cost-effective and are not an accurate way of measuring body composition. Whilst returning results quickly, an initial appointment is required as well as a trip to the scanning facility. DEXA scanning can be costly and is not always accessible to most individuals.
The Modern Health Assessment
A healthy balance between fat and muscle is vital for health and wellness. An array of evidence shows that maintaining a healthy body composition increases longevity and reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc, leading to an increase in energy levels whilst improving self-esteem. BVI technology separates body weight into specific components that can be examined separately. BVI provides key health risk indicators such as visceral fat levels, total body fat %, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. BVI can be integrated within an app, giving users the ability to scan their body using their smartphone. This revolutionary health assessment method means that BVI can be used to monitor and track health from a doctor’s office or can be simply used in the comfort of the user’s home. Here at BVI, our aim is to enable individuals to take better control of their health through body composition analysis – using only a smartphone.
 - Kacev, T. (2019, May). The Importance of Body Composition. Retrieved from Bulk Nutrients: https://www.bulknutrients.com.au/blog/the-importance-of-body-composition/
 - Len Kravitz, P., & Vivian H. Heyward, P. (n.d.). Getting a Grip on Body Composition. Retrieved from The University of New Mexico: https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/underbodycomp.html
 - NHS. (2019, March). Bone Density Scan (DEXA SCAN). Retrieved from NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dexa-scan/