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Body Composition

Body composition is a term to describe the different body compartment (especially lean mass and fat mass) that make up a person’s body weight.


Body composition is a term to describe the different body compartment (especially lean mass and fat mass) that make up a person’s body weight. It is important when studying obesity to be able to measure body composition. Overall body fat is an important indicator of weight-related disease such as diabetes and the location of this tissue is equally, if not more, significant.

There are two categories of body fat. Essential fat is the critical form necessary for proper body functioning. You need this fat for a healthy nervous system, brain, heart, lungs liver and other important organs. Generally men need at least 3-5% of total weight to consist of fat while women need around 12%. Non- essential fat or storage fat is found in fat cells (adipose tissue) and is often located just below the skin and around major organs. It helps cushion the body and keeps it warm. Your lifestyle can have a great impact on controlling the risk of excessive non essential fat. To understand whether your exercise and / or nutrition program is working properly, you need to know body composition.

Body Fat Percentage 

Ideal body weight is determined by comparing your fat weight to lean body weight. An ideal ratio between the two is identified as a range of 10-19 percent for males and 18-26 percent for females, depending on age. Fat weight can be reduced by increasing lean body weight through resistive (weight training) exercise or decreasing dietary intake, especially fat and sugar consumption.

Body Mass Index 

Your BMI is based on the theory that a person’s body weight should be proportional to their height> it is based on an estimate of body composition using a simple calculation: dividing your body weight (in Kilograms) by your height (in meters squared). The BMI will be inaccurate for very fit or athletic individuals since they often have a large amount of lean body mass (muscle weighs more than fat) and will be incorrectly categorized as over-weight.

Waist Circumference and Waist/ Hip Ratio 

How and where you store your body fat does make a difference in your health. Excess fat in the abdomen – apple shape- puts you at a higher risk for disease. Excess abdominal fat is known to increase the risk for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is referred to a pre-diabetes condition that is determined when a combination of slightly elevated blood glucose, blood lipids, blood pressure and abdominal obesity are present. One theory is that the fat in the abdomen region does not hold tightly to its fat and this results in excess fat release into the circulation. The American Heart Association now classifies obesity as a major risk factor for heart disease. Excess fat around the abdomen is a stronger cardio-metabolic risk factor than overall obesity. An increase risk for disease is seen in men with a waist circumference > 102 cm (>40 in) and women with a waist circumference. cm (>35 in). A waist to hip ratio above 0.80 for women and 0.95 for men puts you at greater risk for health problems.

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