What is BIA scale?
The world’s first foot‐to‐foot body composition analyzer developed in 1992 by the Using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) technology.
Essential in a weight-loss program and for those wishing to evaluate their body composition, this analysis provides a clear and complete reading of the following measures:
- degree of body fat
- degree of body water
- base metabolism
- bone and muscle mass
This test can be performed at the beginning or end of your protocol.
The basic BIA scale looks like a standard digital bathroom scale. It is flat, portable and you place it on the floor and step onto with both feet. Turn the scale on and, when prompted, input your sex, age and height using the buttons below the display monitor. Foot placement is indicated by two electrode-containing metal panels. Step on them with bare feet and the display monitor will reveal your body composition within seconds.
How does BIA scale work?
BIA scales analyze body composition using bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA). BIA works by sending a small electric signal (50 kHz, 500 Micro Amp) up one leg and down the other, carried by the water and fluids that are contained within the body to measure impedance. Muscle is normally approximately 50‐70% hydrated whereas fat is only 10‐15% hydrated. This impedance information is then used to calculate multiple body readings.
The current passes through water easily and has more difficulty passing through other substances. Fat contains little water, so the more fat your body contains, the more the current is impeded. Muscle, on the other hand, has high water content allowing the current to pass through more easily. The scale can report body weight, body fat percentage, and muscle mass, total body water, visceral fat, bone mass and basal metabolic rate, but the only values it actually measures are weight and total body water. It then calculates the other values based on known relationships between body substances.
A message for Women
Women have more body fat than men–about five percent more. By nature, a woman’s body is developed to protect her and a potential fetus. As a result, women have more enzymes for storing fat and fewer enzymes for burning fat. Additionally, the estrogen women have activates fat storing enzymes and causes them to multiply.
Women experience more changes in hydration levels than men because of their menstrual cycle, and this can affect body fat measuring, particularly using the BIA method. Retaining fluid may also cause weight to fluctuate day-to-day during this period causing additional variation in the body fat percentage.
Female users of BIA products should be aware of their natural monthly body cycles.
To establish a baseline for monitoring body fat, many women find it useful to chart their readings every day for a month. Afterward, monitoring at regular intervals can anticipate monthly fluctuations.
Hormonal changes due to pregnancy or menopause may also cause water retention and variations in measuring. Changes in hydration levels can also be due to food, caffeine or alcohol consumption, strenuous exercise, stress or illness, or the taking of prescription drugs.
To successfully monitor progress, women should remember to compare weight and body fat percentage measurements taken under the same conditions over a period of time. Pay attention to fluctuations caused by menstruation.
Why is it important to monitor body fat percentage?
Measuring weight alone is not a completely accurate assessment of health or fitness because it doesn’t distinguish kg that come from fat and kg that come from lean muscle mass. Everyone needs some body fat, but too much fat results in obesity.
Are there any illnesses directly linked to obesity?
Obesity is directly linked with Diabetes Type II and hypertension, and is a contributing risk factor for many other conditions including heart disease, sleep disorders, arthritis, gall bladder disease, stroke, and several forms of cancer. Awareness and monitoring of body fat percentage can be a motivational tool for a fitness or weight management program. Additionally, with any chronic degenerative disease, monitoring body fat and lean body mass is critical to evaluation, treatment, and management of the condition. This information is helpful in determining a suitable exercise and nutritional program on an individual basis.
Is it possible to have too little body fat?
Yes. Both extremes–too much or too little body fat–put an individual at risk for serious medical and/or psychological conditions. Having a very low body fat percentage, particularly for women, can result in musculoskeletal problems and osteoporosis. And it can upset the hormonal balance causing loss of menstruation. Striving for extremely low body fat can also result in severe eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating which have significant health implications.
Are there optimal conditions for determining body fat percentage?
Yes, there are:
- Select a consistent time of day, and stick to it.
- With an empty bladder
- When normally hydrated
- Unclean foot pads may interfere with conductivity.
- Early morning is not recommended because the body is often dehydrated after a night’s sleep. Once you have established your baseline, monitor body fat about twice a month. Checking body fat more frequently is not beneficial as changes occur slowly over time.
Things that can affect hydration include:
- strenuous exercise
- recent food intake
- diuretics such as caffeine, alcohol, certain medications