Healthy living * Weight loss

New way to measure body fat devised

Body Volume Index (BVI) 3D scanner launched Body Volume Index more accurate than BMI

Body Mass Index (BMI) has long been used as a way to standardise and compare different people's weight compared to their height.

But BMI was never designed to determine how obese a person is, as it fails to take into account several factors, such as the distribution of the fat, and the ratio of muscle to fat tissue.

Now scientists from the University of Aston in Birmingham have a launched a new indicator, the Body Volume Index, which they claim provides a more realistic view of the body's shape, and will help identify people at risk of illnesses such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Unfortunately, unlike the BMI, you cannot calculate your BVI at home - it requires a specialised 3D white-light scanner which takes an complete scan of the body to show how fat is distributed compared to a "normal" person.

The scanner has been developed as an offshoot from technology designed to help retailers such as Marks and Spencers produce more accurate clothing sizes.

The Aston research team analysed data from multiple sources to produce "norms" for fat in clinically-relevant parts of the body, taking account of age and gender, and evaluated the effectiveness of the measurement technology.

Study leader Ian Nabney commented: "The 3D BVI measure enables clinicians to understand more about the distribution of a patient’s fat levels, particularly in the abdominal region which is an important indicator of a patient’s health. This could prove a vital early warning system to help identify individuals particularly at risk of heart disease, strokes, and diabetes."

Richard Barnes of Select Research, the company that developed the scanner, further added: "Most people in the world realise that carrying extra weight around the stomach means that they do have a greater health risk, commonly known in healthcare as central obesity. What BVI now offers the world is a brand new way of measuring the abdominal area which BMI simply cannot do."

He also pointed out the limitations of the conventional BMI approach: "BMI was never meant to be used as an individual assessment for obesity and we believe that after nearly 200 years, each patient deserves to be measured in a way that takes their own body shape and lifestyle factors into account."

BVI is currently being tested through a clinical research programme led by Heartlands NHS Hospital in the UK and The Mayo Clinic in the USA. The 3D scanner involves no contact, uses safe white light technology rather than radiation or lasers.

This article was published on Thu 21 October 2010

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