Move over BMI – there´s a new 3D app to measure body fat

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have just released a new way to measure body fat, called the Body Volume Indicator (or BVI). It´s also been developed into an app by Select Research! Let´s take a look at what this means…

What is BMI and why isn´t it good enough?

Body Mass Index has historically been used to estimate how much fat a person carries in their body, and whether they are at a healthy weight. This measurement is obtained by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.

Sure, it´s simple to calculate and uses easy-to-read, colored charts, but BMI was first used in the 1800s and is now considered a rather rough and outdated way to assess for excess weight and risk for developing obesity-related diseases.

Furthermore, it does not account for gender differences, a person’s level of activity, their fat vs. muscle distribution, but most importantly – it completely ignores how much visceral fat is carried around the internal organs in the abdomen. This fat is a direct measure of risk.

What is central obesity and why is it so dangerous?

Central obesity is the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area, particularly due to excess visceral fat. This can lead to deposits into the bloodstream, which is responsible for an array of chronic cardiovascular and metabolic health conditions. Recent research shows that excess abdominal fat increases the risk of cardiovascular death – regardless of BMI. Another study showed a large waist size significantly increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Considering these potentially life-threatening consequences, the fact that BMI does nothing to indicate them is far from ideal…

Why is BVI better?

This revolutionary 3D app compares total body volume with abdominal volume or the ratio of total body fat to visceral fat. After answering a few basic questions (age, gender, activity level, etc.) and taking just two pictures (a front view and a side view of the body), it will calculate the volume of body fat, visceral fat, abdomen volume, waist-to-hip ratio, BMI, and BVI number.

This provides a much more informative overview of the body as a whole, which will allow healthcare professionals to make more accurate health risk assessments. In turn, this will enable a more patient-centred approach, with appropriate lifestyle changes or medical interventions that are tailored to the individual.

No longer will top athletes potentially be classed as ‘obese’ due to their above normal muscle mass, nor will ‘normal BMI’ people with a disproportionally large amount of visceral fat slip under the radar and miss out on life-saving advice and treatments.

See the app in action here.

Download the app here.

Click here for NHS information about BMI and waist size.

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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. We have no affiliation with the creators of the app mentioned.

Sources and Further Reading

Image courtesy of Pixabay

About camillabraganza (3 Articles)
Medical student in the UK. Currently taking a year out to travel and explore other interests.

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