Healthy percentage body fat ranges: An approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index

D. Gallagher, S. B. Heymsfield, M. Heo, S. A. Jebb, P. R. Murgatroyd, Y. Sakamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

952 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Although international interest in classifying subject health status according to adiposity is increasing, no accepted published ranges of percentage body fat currently exist. Empirically identified limits, population percentiles, and z scores have all been suggested as means of setting percentage body fat guidelines, although each has major limitations. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine a potential new approach for developing percentage body fat ranges. The approach taken was to link healthy body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization with predicted percentage body fat. Design: Body fat was measured in subjects from 3 ethnic groups (white, African American, and Asian) who were screened and evaluated at 3 universities [Cambridge (United Kingdom), Columbia (United States), and Jikei (Japan)] with use of reference body-composition methods [4-compartment model (4C) at 2 laboratories and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at all 3 laboratories]. Percentage body fat prediction equations were developed based on BMI and other independent variables. Results: A convenient sample of 1626 adults with BMIs ≤35 was evaluated. Independent percentage body fat predictor variables in multiple regression models included 1/BMI, sex, age, and ethnic group (R values from 0.74 to 0.92 and SEEs from 2.8 to 5.4% fat). The prediction formulas were then used to prepare provisional healthy percentage body fat ranges based on published BMI limits for underweight (<18.5), overweight (≥25), and obesity (≥30). Conclusion: This proposed approach and initial findings provide the groundwork and stimulus for establishing international healthy body fat ranges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-701
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume72
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

Keywords

  • Body composition
  • Body fat guidelines
  • Malnutrition
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Obesity
  • Percentage body fat
  • Prediction equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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    Gallagher, D., Heymsfield, S. B., Heo, M., Jebb, S. A., Murgatroyd, P. R., & Sakamoto, Y. (2000). Healthy percentage body fat ranges: An approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(3), 694-701. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.3.694