Body Fat Analyzers: How Do They Work?

by Joanna

At my job here at Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire, I work as a Health Promotion Coach.  In that position, I conduct health promotion appointments where we provide people with their biometric data. This information includes height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure and body fat percent.

Additionally, we help people understand their health risks and offer suggestions on ways to help lower those risks. It’s very rewarding part of my work here! determine body fat, we use a handheld device known as a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).  Many people are curious as to how this BIA device works. One very common question I come across is, “How does this thing determine my body fat and exactly how accurate is it?”  Therefore I thought I would clear up some confusion and maybe answer some unasked questions.

The BIA works by sending a small, harmless electrical signal throughout the body. (Very Star Trek, I know!)  The device detects the amount of fat based on the speed at which the signal travels.  A slower traveling signal usually indicates a higher body fat percent.

Similarly, a faster speed indicates less resistance and a lower body fat percent. As for accuracy, a handheld BIA device has about a ± 3.5- 5% margin of error.  To get the most accurate reading when using a BIA, it is best to avoid exercising, showering, drinking alcohol, drinking a large amount of water or eating a meal one to two hours prior to a reading.

Overall, though, the BIA is able to get a good estimate of an individual’s body fat percent while being quick and painless. Part of taking control of your health means getting to know your numbers, including body fat percentage and body mass index!

Let me know your take on BIA machine and experiences you have had by leaving a comment below!

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