While It is well documented that being obese negatively affects heart health and longevity, not all measurements of obesity are equal in their ability to determine a person’s cardiovascular health. For example, body composition testing can provide a more accurate measure of cardiovascular health than the more popular Body Mass Index (BMI) tests. This is because by identifying different types of body tissue and their distribution, body composition testing can provide a more detailed and individualized assessment of a person’s health.
How BMI and Body Composition tests differ
Body mass index (BMI) is a widely used measure of body fatness that has been used for decades to assess an individual’s cardiovascular health. Its popularity is due to its simplicity. Determining your BMI involves noting your weight and height and checking a chart to see if you are underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese based on the ratio between the two measurements.
However, recent research has shown that BMI may not be the most accurate measure of cardiovascular health, and that body composition testing can provide a more accurate picture of an individual’s health.
Body composition testing involves measuring the amount and distribution of different types of body tissue, including muscle, bone, and fat. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), or underwater weighing. These methods can provide more detailed information about an individual’s body composition than BMI alone.
Because the radiation risks of x-rays and the costs of underwater weighing make those methods impractical for popular use, the most practiced form of body composition testing is BIA which is 100% safe and relatively inexpensive.
Accuracy: Body Composition vs BMI
In weight loss medicine, experts prefer the use of body composition tests over the use of BMI charts. This is due to the difference in accuracy of the two methodologies in predicting health outcomes. In particular, body composition is a better indicator of overall heart health than BMI.
Here are some reasons why body composition testing may be a more accurate measure of cardiovascular health:
- BMI does not distinguish between different types of body tissue: BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. This means that it does not distinguish between different types of body tissue, such as muscle and fat. As a result, individuals with a high amount of muscle mass may have a high BMI, even though they have a low percentage of body fat.
- Body composition testing can identify hidden fat: Body composition testing can identify areas of the body where fat is stored, such as around the organs. This type of fat, called visceral fat, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even in individuals with a normal BMI.
“…body composition testing can provide a more accurate measure of cardiovascular health than the more popular Body Mass Index (BMI) tests.”
- BMI does not take into account individual differences in body shape and size: BMI is a one-size-fits-all measure that does not take into account individual differences in body shape and size. For example, a person who is short and stocky may have a high BMI even if they have a low percentage of body fat, while a person who is tall and lean may have a low BMI even if they have a high percentage of body fat.
- Body composition testing can identify changes in body composition over time: BMI is a static measure that does not take into account changes in body composition over time. Body composition testing, on the other hand, can identify changes in muscle mass and body fat percentage, which can provide a more accurate picture of an individual’s cardiovascular health.
- Body composition tests may explain the “obesity paradox”: In many cases, heavier people who may test as overweight or obese, actually have more muscle and can be very athletic. These individuals often have healthier hearts despite having high enough BMIs to qualify as obese. Because of this, the idea that BMI is not an accurate measure of body composition but rather a measure of weight has been discussed by researchers. They argue that a high BMI does not necessarily indicate an unhealthy amount of fat mass. This can be seen in the case of professional athletes who may have a higher BMI than the average person but have a higher amount of muscle and lean mass than fat mass. On the other hand, an adult of supposedly healthy weight may have a BMI within a healthy range but still have a higher amount of fat mass. Therefore, it has been suggested that body composition could be a more precise measure, particularly since fat mass plays a crucial role in cardiovascular disease and heart failure.
Dr. Amir’s Weight Loss and Metabolism Center
Dr. Amir’s Weight Loss and Metabolism Center uses weight loss technology including body composition testing using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). This technology helps to accurately track progress toward a healthier body composition. If you are suffering from being overweight or obese and have tried fad diets, exercise and other methods without success, you may benefit from following a scientifically-backed program that encompasses meal replacement, lifestyle interventions and may also include obesity medication. Contact us today for your initial consultation.