How accurate are portable body fat analyzers?

Posted: April 27, 2010 in Obesity Medicine by

If you’re trying to improve your health or lose weight, you may be looking for more than a digital scale to measure your results. Some people use body fat percentage to monitor their progress, especially if they’re exercising to build lean muscle mass. How can you find out what your body fat percentage is?

Portable body fat analyzers, or impedance meters, are usually the most affordable and readily available test available to the general public. These devices work by attaching two conductors to the body and sending small electrical currents through the body. The resistance between the conductors then provides a measure of body fat. Unfortunately, these portable body fat analyzers aren’t very reliable and the results can vary depending on the quality of the device itself, as well as how hydrated you are when you take the test.

To get a more accurate measurement of your body fat percentage, contact your doctor for testing. Your doctor may be able to perform a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), air displacement plethysmography, or underwater weighing. While these options may be more reliable, they may not be available in all cases and will likely be more expensive. For example, underwater weighing requires you to be completely submerged under water on a special chair and is typically only available in specialized research facilities.