Harvard Men's Health Watch

Should I know my percentage of body fat?

Ask the doctor

bmi body fat percentage
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Q. How can I measure my percentage of body fat? Is this good information to know?

A. Body fat percentage does provide information about your overall risk for diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Nutritional experts suggest a range of 10% to 25% body fat as healthy values for men.

Two methods are often used to determine body fat percentage. One is a skin fold measurement, in which a clinician measures certain areas of your body with calipers and uses the numbers to calculate a body fat percentage. However, this method is highly dependent on the accuracy of the measurements and can vary greatly. The second method is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), in which a small electric current is sent through your body. Since water and fat conduct electricity differently, body fat can be calculated from this method. Still, BIA is less accurate when men have more abdominal fat and can be affected by how well hydrated you are.

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